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Tips for Preparing Your Home, Pets, and Vehicle for Freezing Weather in Houston

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This Houston Christmas may not be white, but it will be cold.

A strong cold front of arctic air is expected to hit the Houston area this Thursday, according to the National Weather Service, bringing sub-freezing conditions that are expected to last until Christmas Day. Local temperatures could rival lows from the winter storm of 2021, where a combination of abnormally frigid conditions and high statewide power demand led to power outages that lasted several days and led to the death of more than 240 Texans.

But local utilities and the state’s electric grid operator said they were better prepared this winter than they were in 2021.

Here’s what meteorologists are predicting about the freeze and what you can do to prepare now:

How cold will it be in Houston?

It is too early to predict exact temperatures, according to the NWS, but temperatures below 25 degrees likely start Thursday night and continue through Christmas. On Friday, the NWS projects a low between 13 and 21 degrees for Houston and between 17 and 25 degrees for Galveston. But Wind Chill could make it feel closer to single digits, or even below 0 degrees, according to ABC13 Chief Meteorologist Travis Herzog.

During the winter storm of 2021, 13 degrees was the coldest temperature reached in Houston, while Galveston went down to 20 degrees. Statewide temperatures are expected to remain much higher than they were during the 2021 storm, according to meteorologist Eric Berger, editor of Space City Weather.

Is it forecasting rain or snow?

There is a risk of rain and thunderstorms from Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service, as well as a rainfall change of 20% Thursday afternoon and overnight. However, any winter precipitation over the Christmas weekend is unlikely, the NWS predicts.

WHITE CHRISTMAS: Will Houston see snow this winter? It’s hard to say, say the meteorologists

If rain falls when temperatures are at or below freezing, it may fall as snow, sleet or freezing rain depending on the exact conditions.

Will the power be cut off?

Officials from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s nonprofit grid operator, said They expect to have enough power to meet demand during the cold snap that is coming this week. Last Friday, ERCOT issued a notice to state power generators to be online and ready to supply power between December 22-26.

Since the winter storm of 2021, ERCOT has also taken steps to cool its facilities and create practices to bring more generators online when the amount of demand puts pressure on the state’s power grid. In a report published in November, officials said they believe they will have more than enough output needed to survive the winter without widespread blackouts, and reliance on blackouts would be a “very low probability scenario” needed only if the conditions were worse than what happened during the winter 2021 storm. ERCOT offers email alerts and post updates on their Twitter and Facebook.

However, not all outages during a winter freeze come from the state power grid. During the winter storm of 2021, power outages in San Antonio were attributed to strong winds and icy tree branches knocking down power linesand the lines feeding Austin’s largest water treatment plant were carried away by a falling tree. You can Sign up to receive free text, email or phone call alerts from CenterPoint Energywhich serves much of the Houston area, for local power outage information.

The Houston Chronicle also runs a Texas Power Outage Tracker which updates real-time information about power outages in Texas counties.

Make sure all vehicles you own are filled with gas before Thursday and also consider storing extra gas. In the event of a power outage, your car can help you charge your devices and keep you warm.

How can I prevent my pipes from freezing?

In freezing weather, pipes may freeze and then burst when they thaw, causing damage to your home. To prevent this, open your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let the heat from your home reach your walls and water pipes. Installing insulation around your indoor and outdoor pipes can also prevent them from freezing.

Sprinkler systems must be turned off and drained, the NWS advises. If you’re leaving Houston for the holidays, you might also consider turning off your water completely and running all the faucets in your home until nothing comes out to make sure there’s no water left in your pipes. to freeze.

Letting faucets drip to keep water moving can also help prevent freezing, although it’s not 100% foolproof, Joe Bany, director of field operations at John Moore Services, told the Houston Chronicle earlier this year.

What can I do for pets and outdoor plants during frost?

Outdoor pets should be brought indoors if possible, and any pets or livestock that cannot be brought indoors should be constructed some type of shelter to protect them from wind and cold . Temperatures can be cold enough to kill animals left without adequate shelter, According to Eric Berger.

Protecting your plants with cold weather plant covers before Thursday can help retain some heat to help them survive, according to the NWS. If you have plants located in pots, consider moving them indoors for the duration of the freeze.

What happens if the power goes out?

The NWS warns have extra blankets and layers on hand in case of a power outage.

Be careful when using fireplaces or portable generators for warmth. During the winter storm of 2021, some Texans died after fires they started to stay warm got out of controland More than 300 people have been admitted to Houston-area hospitals with carbon monoxide poisoning during the 2021 freeze.

CARBON MONOXIDE: In the event of a power outage, here’s how to stay warm and avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, do not light barbecues, portable gas stoves, or use fuels such as diesel, charcoal, and gasoline indoors. This can accumulate carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can cause neurological damage or even death. Make sure your home is equipped with a carbon monoxide detector, which can cost as little as $20. If you begin to experience headaches, nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, confusion, or ringing in your ears, you should immediately get outside and get some fresh air. Samuel Prater, Medical Director of the Hermann Memorial Emergency Department, told the Houston Chronicle earlier this year.

If Houston loses power, water purification plants could also be affected, resulting in a boil water advisory. Public Works prepares to keep Houston’s water system running if the electricity is out, but late last month a blackout at one of the city’s three main sewage treatment plants caused water pressure to drop below safe levels, leading the city to issue a boil water advisory.

BOIL WATER ADVISORY: Here’s what you can and can’t do during a boil water advisory

During a boil water advisory, you can safely wash your hands or clothes with tap water, but any water used for cooking, drinking or brushing your teeth must be boiled for one minute to get rid of any potential contaminants. Ice made with tap water can also be contaminated. If you take a shower or a bath, try not to swallow water or put any in your mouth.

If you go out during the freeze, be sure to wear adequate winter clothing or layers. Exposure to extreme cold can lead to frostbite or hypothermia. The parts of your body most susceptible to frostbite are your hands, feet, and any areas of skin that are directly exposed to cold air.