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Arctic cold front incoming: Here's how to beat the freezing temperatures this week

Winter Storm Uri caused around 4.5 million Texans to lose power. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

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.

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:

  1. Check on vulnerable people
  2. Bring pets inside
  3. Cover plants
  4. 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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