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Arctic Austin: How to protect yourself and your home in freezing weather

Ice on the ground in Austin on Jan. 10. (Austonia)

Instead of the sunny, warm weather Austin is used to, next week the city is going to hit an ice age of sorts—at least by comparison. With the forecast predicting freezing temperatures, many Texans are unfamiliar with protective practices for their property in the winter weather.


From Saturday through Thursday, Austin, alongside every other state in the U.S. is expected to experience chilly, below-freezing temps.

Here's what to do when the thermometer drops.

Before freezing temperatures


Pipes are prone to expansion and breakage during freezing weather so before it gets too cold, wrap all exposed pipes outdoors. Make sure to bring in your garden hose or disconnect it from the faucet and if you have vents on the foundation of your home, cover those as well. If available, locate your property owner's cut-off valve and familiarize yourself with it.

During freezing or sub-freezing temperatures

During times when temperatures are expected to be 28 degrees or lower for more than four hours, keep outside faucets dripping slowly. In prolonged freezing weather, it may be necessary to let inside faucets drip slowly as well. Be sure to turn off faucets when temperatures rise above 28 degrees.

If you have any sinks that are attached to outside walls, leave cabinet doors ajar and wrap the pipes. If your garage is not heated, consider cutting off water to washing machines.

Change the direction of your ceiling fan to clockwise—it will circulate warm air—but keep your thermostat relatively low. Keeping your thermostat between 65-70 degrees will keep your pipes warm enough not to freeze and save energy.

When you go outside


Layers are your best friend in cold weather, if they are done correctly. Make sure your base layer is a wicking fabric like cotton, merino wool or polyester. The middle layer will retain heat and keep you insulated, so opt for something like fleece or down, though the rule of thumb is that it should be thicker than your base layer. Finally, your outer shell can range from a windbreaker to a ski coat, but it should keep you safe from wind.

Most importantly, make sure your head, hands and feet are covered, as they lose heat the fastest.

To protect your plants

Bring all your potted plants inside, if possible. For outside plants, add a thick layer of mulch to the top to keep the roots insulated. Cover small plants with a cloche—or a dome-shaped object—to keep plants warm. For beds, use a tarp to cover the entire area.

To protect your pets

Once the weather gets below freezing temperatures, keep your pets inside for the majority of the time. If you have a short-haired dog, give it a cute sweater to wear while you walk them and be sure to clean their paws when you come inside, as they may have picked up salt or ice-melting chemicals that can irritate their skin.

It's only for a week—stay warm Austin!


More on the weather:

Arctic blast set to chill Valentine's Day weekend
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