Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Emergency crews flooded with medical calls, reports of hundreds of broken water pipes

Hojun Choi
Austin American-Statesman
Icicles form on a recycling bin in North Austin on Feb. 12, 2021. Icy weather is expected through Sunday.

Austin and Travis County area first emergency workers say they are being flooded with calls requesting medical services and reporting broken water pipes amid severe winter weather in the region.

Captain Darren Noak, a spokesman for Austin-Travis County EMS, said the emergency crews have received more than 1,200 calls for service as of 9:30 p.m.

"I've been here 25 years and this is the busiest," Noak said. "I've never seen calls over 1,200. On a busy day with a special event, 500 or 600, maybe. We're keeping busy, that's for sure."

While medics continue to respond to medical emergencies, the Austin Fire Department said they were getting an overwhelming number of calls about broken water pipes. 

Austin Fire Department Division Chief Thayer Smith said officials have received more than 580 reports of broken water pipes since midnight, adding that many of the calls are from apartment complexes. 

"We're trying to assist as fast as we can on the broken water pipes," he said. 

Austin fire officials also said they have responded to three fires that started around a fireplace. One of the fires at an apartment building on 6607 Brodie Lane displaced the residents of 20 units.  

Austin city officials shortly before 9 p.m. tweeted that multiple 24-hour cold shelters have been activated around the city, Officials said people can go to the Palmer Event Center, adding that those with children can go to the Salvation Army Shelter in downtown Austin. 

Learn more: Austin's water utility offers these tips for protecting your pipes

Austin Water recommends protecting water pipes from the intense cold. Tips include wrapping outside faucets with Styrofoam, rags or paper; dripping faucets 24 hours a day during subfreezing weather; and opening cabinet doors under sinks adjacent to outside walls.

If a water line breaks and the cut-off valve does not work or the customer is unable to locate or operate the valve, Austin Water is available to turn off the water. Call Austin Water's 24-hour emergency hotline at 512-972-1000.