First, there was the “snow-pocalypse” of February 2021. Then, there was “tree-maggedon,” when Winter Storm Mara hit this February.
Months later, cleanup for the most recent winter storm is still underway. According to Texas A&M Forest Service, an estimated 10.5 million trees took damage within 72 hours. Through March 30, the city collected 167,180 tons — or 23,338 truckloads — of storm debris from residents. That figure is 27 times more than they would typically collect in a year.
As the repairs for the worst ice storm to hit Central Texas in 15 years wraps up, the Austin Fire Department released a report detailing what firefighters experienced.
Between Jan. 30-Feb. 3, AFD responded to 5,300+ storm-related calls, in addition to day-to-day operations. During that time, firefighters responded to 46 structure fires and at least seven chimney-related fires, an “unprecedented” amount.
AFD dispatchers personnel — which increased from nine to 12 operators — managed more than 5,000 incidents and took more than 4,000 calls during the storm. That time frame held more than 3.5 times the caseload than normal, compared to the 1,500 incidents from the three days leading up to the storm.
Although Mara wasn’t as severe as 2021’s Winter Storm Uri, AFD deployed 1,700 hours of labor at a cost of $130,000 over 72 hours.
AFD provided some tips to heed “before the next winter storm hits":
- Before next winter comes around, have your fireplace and chimney cleaned + inspected.
- Never burn cedar wood in a fireplace, as it can become too hot.
- Regardless of how confident you feel in your skills, do not drive when roads ice over.
- Trim your trees, but be mindful of timing. Oak wilt season is from February to June — the best time to trim in Austin is from July-January.