Georgetown winter storm FAQs

Feb 18, 2021

Updated Feb. 24, 2021

General questions

Are we going to collect any broken limbs or trees in our yards?

Crews contracted by the City of Georgetown have begun picking up tree limbs and brush left from the winter storm Feb. 11-20. The special pickup is free and for residents who live in City of Georgetown city limits.

Limbs and brush should be piled at the curb by Thursday, March 4. Multiple crews are collecting tree limbs across the city. If you need help with cutting limbs or moving them to the curb, see the information on volunteer help below. If you have limbs from the winter storm that need to be picked up, but cannot have them at the curb by March 4, please contact Customer Care at customercare@georgetown.org or call 512-930-3640.

Click here to find out more.

Are we going to be charged extra for extra trash that wasn’t picked up?

You will not be charged for extra trash and recycling left at your curb through Feb. 27, 2021.

Texas Disposal Systems returned to its normal routes Monday, Feb. 22. Please put the following items in your cart, and place the cart curbside on your normal day for Texas Disposal Systems to collect:

Additionally, the Transfer Station, 250 W.L. Walden Dr., is open daily through Saturday, Feb. 27, to take drop-offs. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

People can take up to 3 cubic yards of brush per trip (no trip limit) to the transfer station free of charge through Feb. 27. Extra recycling is always free to drop off at the transfer station. Landfill trash brought to the transfer station will incur a fee, and people are encouraged to leave it on their curbside for regular pickup.

Please read here for more details.

How do I measure 3 cubic yards?

A cubic yard is a measure of volume, or how much matter can fit in a space, such as a trailer. A trailer’s dimensions, such as height, length or volume, are often provided in feet. The following outlines steps to help you convert the dimensions of your trailer into cubic yards.

Multiply the length, width, and height of your trailer. For example, the formula for a trailer that’s 28 feet long by 8 feet wide by 9 feet high is 28 feet x 8 feet x 9 feet, which equals 2,016 cubic feet.

Convert cubic feet into cubic yards by dividing the result by 27. In the example above, 2,016 divided by 27 comes to 74.7 cubic yards.

Generally speaking, the beds of most trucks should get you under 3 cubic yards. Here’s a helpful graphic from our friends in Cedar Grove that shows cubic yards by common truck beds.

I called the call center, but couldn’t get through to anyone. And I posted my question to social media, but never saw an answer. What gives?
We understand this is a very scary, confusing, and frustrating time, and people have a lot of questions. We have staff working around the clock to answer calls, emails, and post to social media to keep you informed with the latest information we have. However, we know the call center gets backlogged, and questions on social often go unanswered.

Given the prolonged nature of this event, we are having to distribute call center and communications staff across multiple shifts. This limits the number of people available to answer calls and respond to the hundreds of comments we get on social media. That means longer wait times when you call and lack of response to your questions on Facebook and Twitter.

To help address questions with staffing limitations, we work to update our automated voice message when you call with relevant information and post updates as we have them. By the time we’ve created that content, had it approved, and posted, we have a new emergency to notify you about. With limited staffing, that doesn’t give us time to answer individual questions on social media. Please remember, the people who have answers to some of your questions work for our water and electric utilities. They are focused on managing the ongoing emergencies and system failures and can’t always step away to help us answer your questions.

However, while we can’t individually answer your comments on social media, we are logging your questions. We used them to inform this FAQ, which we will continue to update, and will share this information on social media in the hopes it helps answer some of the frequent questions we see there.

Why did the City of Georgetown enact a disaster declaration?

The disaster declaration allows the City to request resources from the county, state, and federal government in responding to the winter storm. Resources could include sheltering needs, cleanup assistance, or emergency response. The disaster declaration is the legal mechanism to seek reimbursement for these expenses. The disaster declaration also authorizes the mayor to effect actions such as evacuations, altering transportation routes, establishing a curfew, suspending deadlines in city ordinances, and other measures to protect life and secure property in an emergency.

The disaster declaration is not the same as the Drought Contingency Plan, which authorizes the City to enact water use restrictions in order to provide for basic domestic use and fire flow.

If I had storm damage, where can I apply for assistance?

If you sustained damages from the winter storm, and you have insurance, contact your insurance company and then FEMA. Your insurance claim information is needed to determine eligibility for federal assistance.

Applications are accepted 24/7 at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling: 800-621-3362.

Why have I not been getting emergency alerts from the City?

If you have already registered to get emergency alerts, you may need to update mobile phone numbers or other contact information at WarnCentralTexas.org. You can register multiple phone numbers to receive alerts. Also, make sure we have a current phone number in your City of Georgetown utility account information. Utility account information also is used for some alerts. You can add or change a phone number for your utility account at https://gus.georgetown.org/customercare/paying-your-bill/.

Can I report winter storm damage and needs?

As we continue to move through last week’s unprecedented winter storm, the City of Georgetown would like to share some ways to communicate your damages and needs.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management is conducting a voluntary survey of damages across Texas. This information helps emergency management officials across the state gain an understanding of damages that have occurred during the recent winter weather. Please consider taking this survey and sharing photos of any damage you have at your business or residence.

CLICK TO SUBMIT SURVEY

In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers disaster assistance in the form of low-interest loans to businesses, nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and renters located in regions affected by declared disasters. SBA also provides eligible small businesses and nonprofit organizations with working capital to help overcome the economic injury of a declared disaster.

CLICK TO SUBMIT YOUR INFORMATION

If you sustained damages from the winter storm, and you have insurance, contact your insurance company and then FEMA. Your insurance claim information is needed to determine eligibility for federal assistance.

Applications are accepted 24/7 at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling: 800-621-3362.

Water questions

Do we get a credit for being told to drip my water?
No, there is no way to confirm water use was due to dripping, and it wasn’t mandated. That being said, dripping your water faucet to help pipes from freezing undoubtedly helped ensure our water system wasn’t as damaged as it would have been otherwise, saving you and all of Georgetown even more outages and many thousands of dollars in repairs.
I found a water leak. What do I do?
As service returns and temperatures rise, pipes that have frozen may burst. This is as true for your household pipes as it is for larger City pipes throughout the system.

Georgetown customers are responsible for their water lines up to the meter. The steps differ depending on whose responsibility it is, so the first step is to determine where the leak is coming from.

If you do reach out to the City for assistance, please try to send pictures and/or detail about the leak. That will help us determine the severity/priority and possibly whose responsibility it is, without needing to dispatch crews.

Leaks inside your home

If water is leaking inside your home, you will need to take steps to fix it.

First, determine whether you can control the leak with plumbing valves. If not, you need to turn the water off to the whole house.

Turning off your water

If you need water turned off to the house, call 911 so we can dispatch a technician. Try to manage the water with buckets/towels until we get there. If you can locate and shut off your main water valve, please do so immediately. This will prevent additional water from flowing and damaging your property. Here’s a resource to help you find your main water shut-off valve. If you are unable to locate it, call 512-930-3640.

We know some customers have been without service for days and are in dire need of water. If you have been without water for days, consider filling up bathtubs and pots before shutting off your water valve.

Next, call a professional plumber or other professional. Given the severity of the issue and the possibility of leaks throughout the City, you should plan for longer response times.

Finally, you should consider contacting your insurance provider.

Leaks outside your home

Georgetown customers are responsible for their water lines up to the meter. If the leak is on your property up to your water meter, you will need to follow the steps above to address it. City crews are available to turn off your main water valve if you can’t find it.

If the leak is beyond your water meter and into the public right of way, please notify the City immediately so we can send out a crew. Due to the vast service area of the utility, customers can also be helpful by notifying the utility of any water leaks that they see in public rights of way by emailing leak@georgetown.org.

Finally, we expect there to be a lot of drainage for several days after water services are restored. There will be wet spots that might look like leaks. Sending pictures and/or as much description as you can will be critical in helping staff determine if it’s a leak before dispatching crews.

Who covers the cost of broken pipes?
The City will cover the cost of broken pipes up to and including the meter. Property owners are responsible for the cost to repair broken pipes from the meter to their home.
Are we going to get a credit for the power or water we didn’t use?
No. Georgetown water and electric customers are charged for what is consumed, above the base rate.

Electric questions

Why did we keep having power outages?
Two primary reasons: Power outages and rotating outages. Both are tied directly to the severity and longevity of the winter weather that has been hitting the state since last week. Temperatures in Texas reached lower than they have in 30 years, and crews are working around the clock to restore power and share updates as best we can.

Power outages: The winter weather took a devastating toll on electric infrastructure, causing outages like we see at other times. In this instance, inches of ice weighing down tree limbs and on the electric lines themselves are a primary culprit. City crews are actively responding and resolving these power outages as soon as possible, though the icy conditions make travel make that work take longer than it would otherwise.

Rotating outages: These were required by the statewide electric grid – managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – and are not normal. The severity of prolonged winter weather and the condition of the electric grid are such that the energy available statewide could barely keep up with demand. More on this later.

Why did some customers not lose power?
Because Georgetown was mandated by ERCOT to shed so much load to help reduce demand, we have a limited number of non-critical load circuits on which to spread the shed requirements. The parts of our service area that experienced rotating outages were based the circuit they’re on. Areas with power likely share a circuit with a critical load circuit. Critical load circuits include hospitals, control centers, 911, the airport and water/wastewater plants and are not subject to outages.

We tried to limit rotating outages to no more than three hours and keep power on for four hours at a time. It’s not perfect and it might not seem like it sometimes, but we did our best to spread the shed requirements equitably across the city.

I'm hearing that the City is going to raise electric rates to profit off the disaster.

Many of our customers are concerned that their utility bills will see a huge spike as has been reported in the state and national media.

No. Our utility rates will not increase during this unprecedented weather event. However, the electric usage will likely be much higher than normal due to almost two weeks of extreme cold weather, which may result in higher than normal bills this billing period.

We are an electric utility owned by the City of Georgetown. The retail rates are set by City rate ordinances. Rates can only change if the City Council changes the electric rate ordinance.

Over the next two weeks, we will fully evaluate the financial impacts of the weather event including the cost of energy. City council will then address the financial impacts as necessary.

 

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