By Emily Banks Wooten
An Arctic cold front will bring strong winds and bitterly cold air into Southeast Texas, most likely Thursday afternoon, according to Warning Coordination Meteorologist Dan Reilly of the Houston/Galveston office of the National Weather Service.
“The combination of winds and low temperatures will combine to create dangerously low wind chill indices, posing a danger of hypothermia and burst water pipes. Strong winds could lead to scattered power outages.
A long duration freeze is expected, meaning it will remain below freezing in most zones from Thursday night into Saturday,” Reilly said.
“What we know is that extended durations below freezing are expected for many locations and we recommend finalizing preparations to protect people, pets, plants and pipes before Thursday when the coldest air begins arriving,” Reilly said.
“It is too early to confidently forecast exact temperatures at any individual location but teens and 20s appear likely. It is also too early to confidently forecast consecutive hours any individual location will remain below freezing. However, the potential is there for some areas to remain below 32 degrees into Sunday morning,” Reilly said.
Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator Courtney Comstock agreed.
“We are expecting freezing temperatures this week. Now is the time to prepare and protect your home. Always be prepared for power outages. Have flashlights and batteries on hand. Use generators safely,” Comstock said.
“Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable food and drinking water, one gallon per person per day for at least three to seven days. Also keep enough food and water for your pets. Keep water in your home for sanitary purposes such as toilet flushing. Consider filling a bathtub with water,” she said.
Comstock offered the following tips for protecting pipes:
• Locate your water shut off. Make sure everyone in your residence knows where the water main shutoff valve is located and keep it clear of debris and obstacles at all times.
• Keep out cold air. Tightly close doors and windows to the outside. Make repairs to broken or drafty windows, doors and walls. Seal all leaks in crawl spaces and basements. Winterize unheated spaces and close garage doors for the duration of the freeze.
• Find exposed pipes and water heaters. Insulate pipes in unheated and drafty areas, such as an attic or garage. Also check manufacturer recommendations for your tanked and tankless water heaters. Hardware and plumbing supply stores carry insulation to help keep pipes from freezing.
• Turn off outside faucets. Remove all connected hoses and wrap faucets with towels or a Styrofoam insulator. Turn off and drain automatic sprinkler systems.
• If you plan to be away during a time when freezing temperatures are possible, turn off your water at the meter and set your thermostat to 65 degrees or higher.
• During freezing weather protect indoor faucets by opening cabinets beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes. Be sure to remove any toxic substances located in these cabinets if there are children or pets living in the residence.
• Drip only if needed. After the measures above are taken, drip one cold water faucet slowly if you feel your pipes may still freeze. The faucet you choose should be the one that is the greatest distance from your main shutoff valve. It does not need to be a running trickle. If you do drip your faucet, capture the water for future use.
• If you experience a power outage for more than 24 hours, stop dripping your faucets and turn off your water at the meter.
• After a period of freezing weather, if you turn on a faucet and discover only a trickle of water coming out, or no water at all, it is possible you have a frozen pipe or water meter.