Austin's weather has kept residents on their toes since Winter Storm Uri swept through town—leaving millions of Texans without power—and nearly a year later, temperatures are poised to dip to under 20 degrees on Thursday.
The city has been put under a Winter Weather Watch as "a very strong arctic cold front" is expected to bring temperatures from a balmy 71 degrees on Wednesday to a harsh 19 degrees on Thursday morning.
No big changes to the ongoing forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday's Winter Weather event and VERY cold air coming to end the week. Winter Storm Watch remains in effect for the Edwards Plateau, Hill Country, and Austin Metro. pic.twitter.com/CgVLdy9rOo
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) February 1, 2022
Currently, up to a quarter-inch of ice is in the forecast, meaning there are some things you'll need to ready for to stay safe. It's time to dust off all that winter safety knowledge you learned last year—here's what to do when the thermometer drops.
Know how to get real-time info
- Sign up for Warn Central Texas to get emergency alerts from your neighborhood via text, email or phone.
- Accessible alerts for those who are blind, deaf or hard of hearing are available through AHAS.
- Bookmark the City's Active Emergency Information Hub, which will post real-time updates in the event of an emergency.
- Text ATXWEATHER to 888-777 for updates in English or ATXCLIMA to 888-777 for updates in Spanish.
- Follow city and public safety agencies on social media.
Before freezing temperatures
Austin's Ready Central Texas campaign recommends having a plan for your household in the event of a crisis, getting to know your neighbors, signing up for emergency alerts, and building a kit of emergency supplies like food, water, first aid, essentials and pet's needs that would last for up to seven days.
Pipes are prone to expansion and breakage during freezing weather so before it gets too cold, wrap all exposed pipes outdoors with heat tape, rags or towels. 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
Follow the four Ps:
- Check on vulnerable people
- Bring pets inside
- Cover plants
- Insulate outdoor pipes and faucets
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. 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—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.
Stay warm, Austin!
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.