Winter Weather February 2021

For the most recent updates, go to https://houstonemergency.org/winter-weather-february-2021/

Boil Water Notice Issued for City of Houston Until Further Notice

A boil water notice is in effect for the entire City of Houston until further notice. Residents should consult with their provider or Municipal Utility District (MUD) to see if they are impacted. Read Houston Public Works' full news release: bit.ly/21HTXBoilWater.

Check with your local provider or MUD to see if you are impacted. Individuals who are without power and unable to boil water are advised to use bottled water for consumption. During a boil water advisory, food service establishments operations shall cease unless they can comply with the guidance available at the this link: http://bit.ly/HHDWaterBoil.

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announces an Emergency Disaster Declaration on February 14 in response to extreme winter weather. The declaration is effective immediately to protect and preserve public safety.

Ice Storm Warning Graphic

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Houston beginning midnight Tuesday to 6 AM Thursday. Travel will continue to be very difficult through Tuesday morning with ice covered roads. Power outages are ongoing. The extremely low wind chills, below zero will be life threatening to people and animals outside without adequate warmth or shelter! Those experiencing homelessness or who are medically dependent on power may call 3-1-1 for assistance.

Additionally, the National Weather Service has issued the following alerts for Houston:

  • Hard Freeze Warning from 6:00 p.m. Sunday to 12:00 p.m. Tuesday,
  • Wind Chill Warning from midnight tonight to 12:00 p.m. Tuesday.

Houstonians should prepare for power outages and have non-perishable food and water on hand. Do not travel unless it is an emergency. If you must travel, keep an extra blanket, flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle in case you become stranded.

For the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, visit weather.gov/houston.

Utility Conservation

Water

Houston’s water and wastewater systems are experiencing low pressure. To help maintain water pressure in the system during this winter weather event, please use water only for essential tasks and help conserve water by not running washing machines, dishwashers, or watering outdoors.

Once temperatures rise above freezing and power is restored, these are the best ways to thaw frozen water pipes:

  • Open cabinet doors to circulate heat
  • Use hair dryers, heat lamps or portable space heaters
  • DO NOT USE open flames and/or propane torches (fire hazard)

Continue to conserve water after pipes have thawed.

Energy

Houstonians among with all of Texas are experiencing power outages. Houston OEM is urging everyone to conserve as much energy as possible. Power outages are expected to continue throughout Monday and Tuesday.

Conserve energy by:

  • Turn off and unplug non-essential lights and appliances; and avoid using large appliances (e.g. ovens, washing machines, etc.).
  • Turn down thermostats to 68 degrees or lower
  • Open blinds and shades to take advantage of the sun's natural heat during the day
  • Close shades and blinds at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows.

We urge all residents to conserve resources such as electricity and water.

During ERCOT rotating outages this is what you can expect:

  • Depending on the severity of the power generation shortfall, rotating outages may impact customers more than once.
  • CenterPoint Energy will continue these rotating outages until it receives direction from ERCOT that the electric supply in Texas has stabilized and can resume normal operations.

Staying Warm When the Power is Out

Safely Use Space Heaters

Heating devices cause more than 100 fires in the City of Houston each year, resulting in numerous injuries and possible death. Citizens should always keep in mind that: Space Heaters Need Space!

The Houston Fire Department recommends the following safety tips when using supplemental heating sources:

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm.
  • Never leave children unattended in a room with a space heater – Children knock over space heaters, especially if they are placed on top of wobbly tables or stools and near where the children play. Children may also stick paper or toys in the grates of the space heaters especially gas space heaters. The city had two reported fires in 2004 caused by children playing with space heaters.
  • Keep all combustible materials, including yourself, at least three feet from the heater.
  • Open face heaters should have a screen.
  • Provide ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Electric Heaters Tips

  • Never overload outlets or breakers.
  • Don’t use extension cords for the heater. If the cord is hot to the touch, turn off the heater and unplug it!
  • Electric heaters permanently installed in the wall or ceiling should have lint and dust removed regularly. Lint and dust will burn!
  • For additional information on safely using space heaters, visit houstonfire.org.

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that kills without warning. It claims the lives of hundreds of people every year and makes thousands more ill. Many household items including gas- and oil-burning furnaces, portable generators, and charcoal grills produce this poison gas. Following these important steps can keep your family safe.

CO Detectors

  • Install battery-operated or battery back-up CO detectors near every sleeping area in your home.
  • Check CO detectors regularly to be sure they are functioning properly.

Oil & Gas Furnaces

  • Have your furnace inspected every year.

Portable Generators

  • Never use a generator inside your home or garage, even if doors and
    windows are open.
  • Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.

Visit CDC's webiste for more information on Carbon Monoxide.

City Updates

  • Parks and Recreation Department
    • After- School and Curbside Meal Programs – Cancelled Monday, Feb 15 and Wednesday, Feb 16, 2021.
    • Cullen Park Phase IV is closed through Friday, Feb 12 - Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021.
    • Cullen Park Phase I will remain open Saturday, Feb 13, and Sunday, Feb 14. However, there will be no access to restroom facilities.
    • Golf and Tennis Centers – Closed Monday, Feb. 15, and Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021.
    • Lake Houston Wilderness Park – Closed Monday, Feb 15, 2021.
  • Municipal Courts Department 
    • Due to inclement weather, the City of Houston Municipal Courts will be closed beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday, February 15, 2021, through Tuesday, February 16, 2021. Normal business hours will resume Wednesday, February 17, 2021.
  • METRO
    • All METRO services will be suspended Sunday, Feb. 14 starting at 7 p.m. due to the winter storm impacting the region. Services will remain suspended through Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 or until conditions improve. More at http://ridemetro.org.
  • Houston Public Libraries 
    • HPL TO GO curbside services available at select library locations will be suspended during the Library’s closure, Monday, February 15, 2021, and Tuesday, February 16, 2021.  Services will resume on Wednesday, February 17, 2021.  Customers with pending appointments on Monday and Tuesday will be notified to reschedule for a future date.
    • Customer holds for books and materials will be extended.
    • Beginning Saturday, February 13, 2021, the Central Garage will be closed for repairs, until further notice.
  • Houston Health Department
    • Houston Health Department-affiliated COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites are closed Monday and Tuesday (February 15-16) due to inclement weather. People with appointments will be contacted to reschedule.
  • Solid Waste Management Department
    • Due to the alert from the National Weather Service of the potential for freezing rain to move into the Houston area earlier than anticipated, all SWMD Neighborhood Depositories will close early at 3 PM today, February 14, 2020.,  to allow all employees to get home safely before conditions worsen.
  • Houston Permitting Center
    • Permitting offices will be closed on Monday, February 15 and Tuesday, February 16 due to inclement weather. Customers can use our online services during this time. Any inspections scheduled will be postponed until Wednesday, February 17. Monitor weather conditions and stay safe.

Protective Measures

The 4 Winter Weather P’s

People

  • People should wear layers of clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing your body heat. 
  • Stay inside and off the roads as much as possible when temperatures drop.  
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who may be susceptible to this week’s cold weather and/or not have access to housing and heating, including the elderly and those with access and functional needs. 
  • Avoid overexertion, as cold weather puts added strain on your body. 
  • The Coalition for the Homeless coordinates information for partner agencies and the general public and maintains an updated list of those resources for individuals who may be experiencing homelessness: https://www.homelesshouston.org/help-card-shelters 

Pets

  • Pets should be brought indoors and provided with a warm place to sleep. 
  • Pets, like humans, are vulnerable to cold temperatures. If not taken care of properly, they can succumb to frostbite and even hypothermia.  
  • Normal water supplies will likely freeze over including stock ponds and lakes. 
  • If your pet looks like it has any symptoms resembling frostbite or hypothermia, call your vet. 

Pipes

  • Pipes that run outside or under a house should be wrapped in pipe insulation to avoid cracks due to water freezing in them. 
  • Pipes that are in areas that do not have proper insulation, such as basements or attics, may need extra insulation to keep from freezing. 
  • You can also cover your pipes with towels, duct tape or another adhesive strip as long as they are wrapped tightly. 
  • Do NOT drip your faucets, this will cause low water pressure to our City. Instead, you can open cabinet doors under sinks to make sure they stay warm.  
  • In some cases, the best course of action may be to shut off water to a structure and drain pipes overnight when water usage is low to avoid pipes freezing and bursting. 

Plants

  • Plants may need to be covered or brought inside to avoid frost damage. 
  • When wrapping outdoor plants, use a breathable material such as a cloth, blanket, or old sheet.  
  • Be sure to group plants that are in containers together, and near your home if moving them inside is not an option.  
  • Remember that soil in containers can get just as cold as the air temperature and cause the roots to freeze. 

Preparing for Cold Weather

Stay Updated

For the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, visit weather.gov/houston and follow them on social media, @NWSHouston.

Sign up for emergency notifications via AlertHouston: Alerthouston.org

Download a Disaster Preparedness Guide (available in six languages) and make a plan today: http://bit.ly/2NmO8IZ 

For information on roadway conditions, visit houstontranstar.org or follow the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on Twitter @TxDOTHouston.