How to prepare for a hard freeze



When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. The Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management wants to remind area residents to take precautions to protect life and property during the winter weather, including checking on elderly, taking care of pets and livestock, protecting plants and exposed plumbing.

Here are some tips for dealing with freezing temperatures:


  • Keep warm, stay inside if possible.
  • If you need to go out, dress in layers and wear hats, gloves and an appropriate coat.
  • Avoid overexertion, as cold weather puts added strain on your body.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
  • Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.

Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector and never using generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices indoors.

It is also recommended that you prepare your car for winter. Have your car serviced and add antifreeze as needed. Make sure battery terminals are clean and tightened -- you may even want to clean around terminals with an old toothbrush and a homemade mixture of baking soda and water. Keep in mind that you should replace your battery every three to four years. Make certain windshield wipers and defrosters are in good working order and the window washer reservoirs are filled.

Finally, keep emergency supplies at hand and stay informed about the weather conditions in our area. You can get additional information by visiting


The number one cold weather tip from plant expert Zach Buchanan is to cover your plants with a frost cloth. Buchanan says it lets the plant breathe, but also holds a lot of heat. If you can't find a frost cloth, a sheet or a blanket works well. Just make sure the material allows your plants to breathe and that it isn't just sitting on top of the plants. Buchanan says you want to wrap it around and below the plant so no wind enters. A frost cloth runs around $15.

Number two, if there are potted plants you cannot move inside, then move potted plants to a spot where they're protected from the north wind. Buchanan says the wind causes a lot of frost damage, not necessarily the cold temperatures.

The third tip is to spread at least two to three inches of mulch to protect the roots of plants and trees. Buchanan says you might get frost damage on top of the plant, but if the roots are protected then the roots can come back in the spring. Mulch will cost you around $5.

Finally, use water on plants. It goes against common sense, but watering your plants actually protects them from the cold. Buchanan says the water in the ground is going to keep the roots from getting frost damage.

By following these tips, you can spend less money to protect your plants than replacing them if they're damaged.

You should also avoid some common mistakes: Don't cover plants with plastic. Don't cut back dead-looking parts of plants after a cold spell. Don't put mulch too close to plants and trees. Don't wait until it's too cold to cover your plants.


  • Disconnect outdoor hoses, drain and store in protected area.
  • Wrap exposed faucets and pipes, including those outside the house or in unheated crawl spaces, attics, garages and other areas.
  • If you have a pool, besides keeping the pump running, make sure all the valves are open as well.


  • Bring pets inside, and move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas.
  • Keep adequate food and water available.

It's important to remember that a pet's age, breed or illness may affect how they tolerate the cold winter months. The Houston SPCA advises that it is best that all pets live indoors due these unpredictable weather conditions.

  • Housing: Provide proper shelter for your pet whether they live indoors or outdoors. Indoor pets should have their bed or crate placed in a safe and warm place that is away from drafts. Outdoor pets should have a well insulated house that is wind and waterproof resistant and elevated off the ground so wind and moisture can't seep inside. Install a door flap to protect against drafts and gusts of wind. Extra blankets and straw will also help to increase your pet's warmth. Room and floor heaters should be kept away from your pet as they are an obvious fire hazard and can cause serious injuries as well.
  • Food & Water: Make sure to provide fresh, clean water for your pet every day. Outdoor pets need to consume 25 to 50 percent more calories than usual because the cold weather tends to deplete their energy. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian to make sure what is right for your pet.
  • Cars are Refrigerators: A car can act as refrigerator in the winter. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during the winter months as they will freeze to death.
  • Cats and Cars: Keep your cats indoors during the winter. Not only can outdoor cats freeze, they sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars to stay warm. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. Give an outdoor cat a chance to escape by banging loudly on the car hood before starting your car.
  • Warmth: If you have a short-haired breed of dog, consider getting him / her a sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly to keep them warm. Never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter months as a longer coat will provide more warmth.
  • Antifreeze: Dogs and cats are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze which contains ethylene glycol. A tiny lick can kill your dog or cat so make sure to check your car for leaks on your driveway or gutter. Keep containers tightly closed and clean up spills immediately. Check your local retailer for "pet safe" antifreeze.
  • Rodenticides: Rat and mouse poisons are commonly used during the winter months. Place them out of reach as they can cause fatal bleeding or kidney failure in your pet.

The Houston SPCA encourages you to be especially mindful of your pets this winter and to keep telephone numbers for your veterinarian and a local emergency veterinary service in a convenient location.

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