Preparing to Weather the Storm
Happy Groundhog Day 2023, at least for those hoping for six more weeks of winter it will be at least. According to Newsweek, Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow this year denoting that we’re not quite done with the winter holiday as of yet (https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/groundhog-day-2023-did-punxsutawney-phil-see-his-shadow/ar-AA171Bra). While I love the possibility of snow and sweater weather extending into the early months of the year, it can present some difficult challenges for Texans as well as we brace for the possibility of another winter storm this year.
The good news is that since we’ve endured a few over the past years, there is a collective knowledge, understanding, and protocol for dealing with these types of situations and while we hope not to have to employ them, it’s always best to be prepared to “weather the storm.”
With that said, you can of course consult our previous blog posts on how best to prepare or deal with power outages during a freeze, here: https://suntexllc.com/survival-tips-from-texans-weathering-the-storm/, or if you would prefer, read on to learn more!
Prepping your home for freezing temperatures:
- COVER YOUR OUTDOOR FAUCETS: As you’ve likely seen before, one of the first things that should come to mind when preparing for freezing temperatures is covering your outdoor water spickets. Why? The reason for this is that when exposed to temps below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, pipes – particularly those with water still trapped inside – can expand, or in this case contract, potentially causing cracks and leaks which could cause lots of damage to your home, even without you noticing it for some time.In order to prevent your pipes from freezing and contracting, it’s best to cover them with a foam insulator in order to keep the temperature above freezing as much as possible. You can typically find outdoor spicket coverings at your local hardware store, however they may be harder to come by in the week just before the freeze, so it’s best to keep these on-hand and bring them out only when necessary. Once temperatures increase again – likely to 50 degrees (F) or even 70 degrees (F) the next day in Texas – you can safely remove the coverings and store them in your garage where you’ll be able to find them the next time the temperature dips below freezing.
If you cannot find foam covers, or they’re all sold out at the store – don’t fret! You can also use foam noodles, or even Styrofoam coolers as a replacement – just make sure to cover the entire faucet and/or opening and tape up any gaps/holes in the covering. If you cannot get ahold of any foam/Styrofoam, your last resort is to just use towels. Again, the main idea here is to keep the faucet completely covered and sealed so that you’re able to maintain the temperature as best as possible above freezing.
- HIDE YOUR PLANTS! Similar to your outdoor faucets, if you’re interested in preserving your garden through a freeze you’ll likely want to cover up any outdoor plants, and bring any inside that are potted so that you can keep their temperatures well above freezing. Many plants don’t do well in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so you may need to keep them covered for longer than the duration of the freeze.
Because I like to reuse materials as much as possible while maintaining a clean space, I love using old shower curtains for this purpose. You can also use tarps, or really any other type of plastic covering that will let light through, while keeping rain and/or frost out. Simply drape your plastic covering over the plant, and seal down the sides with rocks/sticks/etc. so that you’re able to create sort of a mini greenhouse where your plants can continue to thrive while maintaining their own heat from within.
Of course, if you’ve had time to plan ahead for this you might even consider planting a freeze-tolerant garden so you don’t have to worry too much about covering it up in the case of a freeze, but if you just can’t help but plant gardenias (and who could blame you?!) , then you’ll want to keep this in mind during the winter months when the temperature can dip below 40 and stay there for days at a time.
- HOPE FOR THE BEST, PREP FOR THE WORST: If you’ve lived in Texas for more than a year, or even if you’ve watched the news over the past few winters, you’re likely familiar with the reason behind this statement: when Texas freezes, the power will likely go out, and it’s better to be prepared for it than to try and address it after the fact. This means making sure you have the basics covered for surviving, so that you can shift your focus in these moments to thriving: candles, flashlights, and lanterns are accessible and easy to find; blankets are clean and plentiful; and you know how to stay warm safely, particularly if the roadways are frozen and dangerous.The Spruce has provided a pretty good list for how to keep warm if you don’t have heat, feel free to check it out here: https://www.thespruce.com/ways-to-keep-warm-without-turning-up-the-heat-1388206#:~:text=13%20Tips%20for%20Staying%20Warm%20Without%20Turning%20Up,8%20Reverse%20the%20Ceiling%20Fan%20…%20More%20items – and while some of these will not be applicable without power, there is still a lot of great information. For example, the importance of layering your clothing can not be overstated!
A good rule of thumb is to use the loose-tight-loose layering rule: when adding layers, start with a fitted layer (like leggings or long johns), and then add a looser layer (think long-sleeved t-shirts and sweatpants), and then add one more fitted layer on top (this one may seem a little less comfy since you’re now stuffing yourself into something tighter than your previous layer, however the heat your body creates between layers can get trapped in the extra space, helping you build heat between layers like a mini-greenhouse effect for your body).
Don’t forget about your fuzzy socks! It may even be helpful to stuff your pants into your socks, and then try to avoid all of your neighbors because you will look ridiculous – but you’ll be warm!
The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
Finally, one thing I must mention here is that Carbon Monoxide is deadly. This was a major cause of death during Winter Storm Uri and because it’s colorless and odorless, it can be really difficult if not impossible to detect. So, don’t try and heat your home using your gas stove!
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning gas, and the longer you utilize a gas-burning device, the more carbon monoxide enters the atmosphere. This is also why you should not sit in a running vehicle in an enclosed garage. While jumping in your car to heat up from time to time can be really helpful for keeping warm, make sure that your car is parked in a well-ventilated area when you do so that you don’t fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning.
There are plenty of additional ways to keep warm if your power goes out, and luckily temperatures are expected to increase above freezing temperatures within a couple of days this time around, so my recommendation would be to wait it out at home if you are able to do so, and mitigate any unnecessary congestion on the roads so you don’t have to be bailed out later. However if you lose power and cannot hunker down, do what’s best for you! If you must go to a hotel nearby, or a friend’s house that’s connected to a hospital energy grid, then please do so. Just be safe out there, and most importantly, stay warm!