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Blog: Winter storm forces closures of roads, services in Austin area Wednesday

Here's a look at road closures and services closed by icy and snowy conditions Feb. 17.

TEXAS, USA — Editor's note: This blog is no longer active. For the latest updates, click here.

A historic winter storm has brought icy road conditions to Austin, Texas, forcing road closures. Many services are also shutting down as the city deals with power outages and dangerously cold temperatures.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) began to pretreat bridges and overpasses on major Austin roads last week in preparation for the expected icy conditions. Even so, dozens of crashes have been reported in the days since then.

Officials are again warning residents to stay off the roads if they can because the snow that melted in the sun Monday likely froze overnight. All roads are slick. If you must drive, take it slow. If a signal is dark, treat it as a four-way stop.

Drivers are being urged to stay home. But if you must drive, you can check for road closures on this interactive map.

A look at road and services closures for Feb. 17:

7:30 p.m. – Hays County offices and parks remain closed through Friday, Feb. 19, due to continued inclement weather combined with continued power and water outages across the region.

"Many in our region are suffering from prolonged power and water outages," said Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra. "With feedback from our emergency management and operations teams, I think it is prudent to close our facilities and parks for the remainder of the week.”

Please see updated weather-related info below:

  • Hays County offices, parks and recycling centers will be closed Thursday and Friday, Feb. 18 and 19.
  • County officials continue to urge residents to stay home and off the roadways.
  • Be prepared for additional power outages, including flashlights, batteries, extra blankets and layers of clothing. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is urging Texans to conserve power during the extreme weather.
  • Those without electricity can check with one of the cold weather shelters to see if they have room to be used as a warming station. Please call ahead in case they are at capacity and cannot accept anyone else into the facility. Also try the Austin Disaster Relief Network hotline for additional resources: 512-806-0800. Know/see someone experiencing homelessness during this time? See the full list of cold weather shelters.
  • Curative COVID-19 testing sites have closed operations through Friday; if conditions allow, they will open on Saturday, Feb. 20.
  • For anyone with a scheduled COVID-19 second-dose Pfizer vaccine this week, they will be rescheduled to next week. You will receive an email or phone call from the County with the new information. Hays County will also post information as it becomes available.

4 p.m. – Fayette County offices remain closed through Thursday. Water issues are impacting most of the County with Schulenburg being completely out and Flatonia nearing that stage. Water issues are outweighing lack of power/heat. US 77 remains closed both north and southbound in La Grange.

3:33 p.m. – For safety purposes, all Central Texas Food Bank food distributions scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18, have been canceled. The Food Bank will also be closed on Thursday.

The Thursday cancelations include:

  • Mobile Food Pantry in Rockdale
  • Mass food distribution event at the Travis County Expo Center, Austin
  • All Children’s Meal distributions, including PARD — Dittmar Recreation center

12:08 p.m. – Pflugerville police said all traffic lights in the City of Pflugerville will be set to flash.

9:51 a.m. –  Austin Transportation said traffic signals remain out across Austin due to the power outages. Austin Mobility Director Rob Spillar explains why it's critical to treat these intersections as a four-way stop.

9:30 a.m. – The City of Pflugerville said all City facilities remain closed to the public. If you need immediate assistance, please contact our non-emergency line at 512-990-6700.

9:28 a.m. – Austin Travis County EMS reported that as of 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, they received  298 calls for services including exposures, people falling, and carbon monoxide incidents. They shared winter weather safety for driving and said the icy road conditions made it dangerous to respond to calls Tuesday night.

8:10 a.m. – Austin Mobility Director Rob Spillar gave cautions to cyclists in a video on Wednesday as freezing rain hit the Central Texas area overnight. He said stay off the roads if possible.

6:50 a.m. – The National Weather Service reported that travel conditions were "near impossible/very dangerous through the Hill Country & along/east of I-35" after freezing rain fell overnight.

Cedar Park police reported that northbound and southbound lanes of Bell Boulevard at Discovery Boulevard were reopened.

6 a.m. – The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is reporting weather-related outages to some traffic cameras, digital highway signs and traffic signals. TxDOT advised Texans to take extreme caution at intersections where lights are not working and treat them as four-way stops.

5:40 a.m. – Cedar Park police said northbound and southbound lanes of Bell Boulevard at Discovery Boulevard were shut down due to downed power lines.

5:15 a.m. – The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) advised Texans to stay off the roadways Wednesday morning, if possible. Freezing rain in the area has caused icy road conditions. 

"Crews continue to keep roadways passable for first responders, essential workers and those with critical needs. If you must travel take it very slow," TxDOT said.

3:49 a.m. – The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) said parts of the state were experiencing fuel shortages. TxDOT advised that if you must drive, top off your gas tank before hitting the road. The shortages were happening along Interstate 10, according to TxDOT.

Tips on how to drive in wintry weather

TxDOT said drivers should follow these guidelines to keep themselves and others safe:

  • Use caution when driving over bridges and overpasses, as these are the first to freeze.
  • Reduce your speed. A vehicle needs at least three times more space to stop on a slick roadway. Don't apply the brakes suddenly, and avoid using cruise control.
  • Slow down when approaching emergency or maintenance vehicles, especially when their flashing lights are on. The law requires you to maintain a distance of at least 200 feet when approaching crews. Don't pass on the right, and remember visibility can also be reduced during winter weather conditions.
  • Be patient. Keep to the main roads and avoid taking shortcuts through territory that may not have been treated.
  • Winterize vehicles before traveling during adverse weather. Check fuel, tire, oil and antifreeze levels. Make sure the heater, brakes and windshield wipers are working properly.
  • Check area weather conditions on radio or television before starting a trip.

WATCH: Austin businesses ordered to turn off non-essential lights

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