It’s going to be a dangerous and cold February 14, y'all. A strong winter storm, the likes of which Houston hasn’t seen in 30 years, will be rolling in Sunday evening, bringing in very low temperatures, winds, and wintery precipitation through Tuesday.
“Welcome to the Valentine’s Day situation,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a press conference Friday afternoon. “A fantastic way to show some love.”
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo warned that this is not your typical hard freeze. We could see temperatures as low as 7 degrees Fahrenheit Monday, with windchills dropping temps even lower (“That’s cold,” said Turner).
People can also expect some mix of freezing rain, sleet, ice, or snow. “Any amount of ice on the roads here will make travel close to impossible, and that seems to be the direction we are heading for Monday,” Matt Lanza wrote for Space City Weather Friday morning.
TXDOT, Harris County Toll Road Authority, Houston’s Office of Emergency Management, and other governmental groups will be out this weekend treating the roads, but that still doesn’t mean the roads are 100-percent safe to drive, Hidalgo said.
Our infrastructure is not built for this, said Hidalgo. “We in our region do hurricanes. We don’t do arctic blasts.”
People can expect a very high probability of power outages, road closures, and other occurrences similar to nasty tropical storms and hurricanes. “The good thing is we have muscle memory,” said Hidalgo.
Do what you’d do if a Category 5 hurricane was coming our way, she said. Bring your pets and plants inside. Cover your pipes. Stock up on groceries and medicines. Have chargers and batteries at the ready. Watch the news for weather reports.
She asked people to prepare for the cold weather by bunkering down, as they would for other storms. “Wherever you are on Sunday evening, prepare to stay there until at least Tuesday morning.”
There will be warming centers and shelters open for people who need them—the George R. Brown Convention Center will open at 2 p.m. Sunday—but both Hidalgo and Turner warned people to stay home unless the situation is dire.
To help folks prepare, here are some tips from Turner:
Know what black ice looks like.
The term black ice is a misnomer—it’s not actually black. Instead, it’s a translucent, thin sheet of ice on the road, according to weather.com. If it looks like water is on the road, don’t drive. It’s ice. “I am a native Houstonian, and I have never learned how to drive on ice,” Turner said. “Never.”
You shouldn’t blast your heaters.
Don’t crank your heaters up too high to temperatures like 78 or 80, said Turner, as that could overload the system. “Lower it a little bit,” to 72 degrees instead.
Be wary of alternative ways to warm your houses.
“Be very, very careful with the space heaters,” Turner cautioned. Keep them away from curtains and other flammable materials. He told people to be wary of bringing barbecue pits close to their homes as a heating source. He also warned of potential carbon monoxide threats if stoves are used to warm up.
Avoid fallen power lines.
This should be a given, but if the storm knocks down power lines, you could get electrocuted if you touch them. “Do not touch downed power lines,” Turner said. “That would be very much appreciated.”
“Set your ceiling fan to rotate clockwise. This helps force warm air down from the ceiling into the room to create a more comfortable environment in colder seasons.”