Tips to beat the hard freeze in SE Texas

Temperatures will fall below freezing for 9-12 hours by tomorrow morning; some areas will drop below 25 degrees for up to 5 hours
January 5, 2014 8:22:48 PM PST
The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the "Deceptive Killers" because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.

While there is no precipitation associated with the system hitting southeast Texas, temperatures between 10 and 30 degrees are possible in nearly all areas of the region Sunday and Monday.

Here are some tips on preparing your home, staying safe while the cold weather sticks around, driving in icy conditions and keeping your pets safe and healthy.

PREPARING YOUR HOME

  • Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
  • Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
  • Winterize your pool and activate freeze protection controls.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Protect your plants: Bring potted plants inside or store in the garage near an interior wall; For cold-sensitive outdoor plants, put down extra mulch and consider covering with a cloth fabric.
  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector, and never use generators, grills, camp stoves or similar devices indoors

PREPARING YOUR VEHICLES

  • Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
  • Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
  • Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
  • Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
  • Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
  • Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.

WINTER DRIVING TIPS

Arctic temperatures, slick streets and increased travel during the winter season are key accident contributors, and there are specific precautions drivers should take.

  • Slow down, increase your following distance; you won't be able to stop as quickly when roads are icy and slick.
  • Make sure you have good visibility, keeping your windshields clear.
  • Don't change lanes, unless you absolutely have to.
  • Take special precaution of bridges and ramps; they ice up quickly.
  • Be extra careful around salt trucks.

Another good bit of advice -- keep a full tank of gas; the last thing you want is to run out in the cold.

PET SAFETY TIPS

  • Keep your pets inside.
  • Bang loudly on your car's hood before starting the motor to warn cats possibly sleeping beneath it.
  • Never let your dog off the leash on ice.
  • More pets are lost during the winter than during any other season. Make sure yours wears ID tags.
  • Wipe off your dog's legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet or ice.
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter.
  • Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck.
  • Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather.
  • If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside.
  • Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats.
  • Make sure pets have a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts.

MORE SAFETY TIPS FOR EXTREME COLD WEATHER

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • If you need to go out, dress in layers and wear hats, gloves and an appropriate coat.
  • Walk carefully on icy walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion, as cold weather puts added strain on your body.
  • Observe heater safety: Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water; keep heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes; never leave children unattended near a space heater.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don't travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).
  • Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.
  • Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55?F.
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

FEMA and NWS contributed to this report.


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