Despite the fact that most Texans – not to mention popular culture in general – don’t feel Texas really experiences winter weather, the season isn’t a stranger to the Lone Star State. In just the past ten years, Texas winter storms have frozen inaugurations, buried the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex, and routinely shut off power to thousands of residents. In fact, the winter storm that visited our state in January 2017, over 53,000 Texas Panhandle residents lost power, some for nearly three days.
Of all these winter weather threats, none is potentially more dangerous than an ice storm. As in the recent episode, ice can coat power lines, causing them to sag and break, which knocks out power to hundreds if not thousands of customers. For many, no power means no heat until crews restore the electricity.
The best way to handle winter weather threats is to be prepared for when they occur. This means understanding your family’s needs are and then taking steps to prepare for an eventual power outage. Since we want your family to stay safe when winter weather hits, First Choice Power has assembled this handy guide to help you create your own plan for enduring winter when your home experiences a power outage.
Don’t Wait for the Power to Go Out
Anytime the weather forecast calls for an ice storm in your area, it’s safer to assume that the power will go out, as opposed to if.
- If you have a generator powered by natural gas, then you’re all set.
- If you have diesel or gasoline fired generator, then you’re going to need to top-off your fuel tanks.
- If you have a wood stove or fireplace, you’ll want to get it ready for use, as well as gathering firewood and storing it in a dry place.
If you don’t have a generator or fireplace, determine the best way(s) for your family to conserve heat with these three considerations.
- Most homes will retain their absorbed heat for 8 to 12 hours to stay above freezing.
- The longer your home is without heat, the colder it will get.
- Depending on where you live in the state, how cold it is, and the weather forecast, you should plan on the best way to conserve heat, particularly at night.
Average winter daytime temperatures in Texas are moderate but night time lows can get below freezing. While most Texans won’t face the sustained week-long bitter cold that Chicago or Minneapolis might, it’s a certain bet that in the average home without heat, there might be a few chilly mornings. Homes with better air sealing and more insulation stay warmer longer and warm up much faster especially during daytime hours in sunny weather.
Depending on where you live in the state, how cold it is, and the upcoming weather forecast, you should focus on conserving heat, particularly at night, by keeping the warm air where your family is gathered.
- Start by making sure everyone is dressed warmly.
- Next, if you feel your home is getting too cold, move everyone to the center of your home and close off upstairs bedrooms and other unused rooms.
- If the temperature in your home falls below 60°F at night, it’s a good idea to hand out extra blankets to help keep everyone comfortable.
- Cover doorways and windows with curtains or blankets to slow heat loss.
You must keep a supply of clean drinking water available during a power outage. Unfortunately, some homeowners don’t take care of simple preparations to protect their water supply during rare instances of cold weather. To ensure the water supply lines to your home are safe, either they already exist in a thermally-controlled place or you’ve well-insulated them to prevent freezing and bursting.
If your home relies on a well, you’ll want to prepare by filling gallon jugs with drinking water and fill the bath tub with water to flush the toilet. While most metropolitan areas have backup generators for their water pumping systems, city and suburban residents should still fill up a few water jugs just in case.
If the temperature in your home falls below 45°F, you’ll want to shut off the water and empty the plumbing to protect your pipes.
Stay Fed and Active
It takes food to keep your body temperature at a comfortably warm 98.6°F. So, stay fed and keep active. Keeping active keeps your blood circulating and helps you stay warm.
It’s also important to stay dry, so if you do venture outside during a storm, remember to dress in layers and avoid overexertion yourself to avoid sweating. Sweat-soaked clothing will pull heat from your body quickly and lead to hypothermia.
Lighting and Heating Safety
Battery-powered flashlights and lamps are the safest thing to use for light during a power outage. Avoid burning candles, oil lamps, or lanterns.
That said, candles, lamps, and lanterns can put out a good amount of heat — so, if it becomes necessary to use these options, be sure to have enough ventilation. Never leave candles, lamps, or lanterns burning when everyone is asleep. Appoint someone to be on guard against fire, and make sure everyone knows where the fire extinguisher is located.
Apart from burning wood in a fireplace or wood stove, NEVER use charcoal or gas grills to heat your home. These not only produce lethal amounts of carbon monoxide, but they are also a fire hazard.
If you use a kerosene heater, know how to use it safely. Only use 1-K grade kerosene fuel, since using or mixing other fuels with kerosene increases the chance for explosion and fire.
What About the Fridge?
Even though your home might go without heat for several days due to a power outage, your home won’t get cold enough to preserve the contents of your fridge. Once perishable foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers warms up to 40°F for more than two hours, you should throw them out.
To preserve your food as long as possible, turn your fridge to its coldest setting about 48 hour before the winter weather arrives. Then, restrict the number of times it can be opened. This way, if the power does go out, you’ll have a better chance of your food lasting more than two or three days.
Know When to Leave
Though it is a rare occurrence, freezing conditions have been known to linger in Texas —even as far south as Houston — for nearly a week. If your home’s temperatures have sunk to the low 50’s because of a power outage, and it’s getting more and more difficult to stay warm, then it’s time to go to a community shelter.
Specifically, infants, the sick, and the elderly require additional care to stay warm. Infants under one year old and elderly adults lose body heat rapidly, and once body temperature falls below 95°F, they can develop hypothermia. First aid in this situation dictates that you cover them with blankets, keep them warm, and provide them with warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages.
Surviving cold winter weather – even in Texas! – is mostly a matter of common sense and keeping in mind the health and safety of the infants, elderly, or sick folks in your home. Hopefully, you now have an idea of what to expect and how to prepare for a winter power outage so you can make the situation easier to endure by keeping your family safe and warm.