February of 2021 will not leave most Texan's memories for a long time. Last year's major winter event impacted the entire state in many ways. It taught an indisputable lesson—disasters don't plan ahead, but you can. State experts say it is not likely to reoccur again this winter, but it's not impossible.
" A repeat this year of the extreme cold of February 2021 is unlikely but not impossible," NOAA said in its Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook. "The chances of extreme cold are somewhat enhanced in winters with weak to moderate La Niña's, such as this year, despite the tendency for average temperatures during La Niña's to be above normal."
But there is one thing you can guarantee this winter season, and it's how much you prepare. Since preparing for severe winter weather can still be new territory for Texans, here are a few steps that you can take to prepare for a severe storm.
Have emergency supplies prepared in a portable kit
Having a kit on hand with a one- to two-week supply for your family and pets is a great place to start. Here are some supplies that you can include in your emergency preparedness kit:
• A gallon of water per person (and pet) per day
• Blankets and extra warm clothes
• A first-aid kit and essential medications
• Portable lights and extra batteries
• Food that can be prepared without electricity
• An alternative heat source, such as a fireplace
• Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if instructed to do so
• Special items for pets, infants, or elderly people
• Extra items include shovels, sleeping bags, and booster cables
• Sand for traction
• A full tank of gas
Be mindful of carbon monoxide
Sadly, people were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning during last year's storm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide poisoning happens when too much carbon monoxide is in the air and builds up in your bloodstream. Your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide, leading to serious tissue damage or death. Some symptoms include loss of consciousness, weakness, vomiting, and confusion.
Be extremely careful with your use of items that emit carbon monoxide within your home or enclosed spaces. Never leave car engines running in a garage, place generators outside and away from your home, and don't use gas grills or charcoal grills inside. Even if your car is located outside, make sure no snow or ice blocks up the exhaust pipe. Check the carbon monoxide detector in your home to ensure you have fresh batteries. If you don't have one installed, install one today.
Sign up for emergency alerts
Time is of the essence when it comes to winter storms. Your local cities and counties may have certain alert systems already in place, and you can look up your county emergency management office online to sign up for emergency emails and texts. You can learn more about wireless emergency alerts and emergency alert systems here.
Develop an emergency communication plan
When planning, you will need to consider whether you will need to evacuate or shelter in place. Winter storms typically have some warning, which gives us time to better prepare. If the storm brings unexpected severe weather, you and your family should establish what you will do if you
shelter in place and lose power. A family disaster plan will help you respond appropriately and make wise decisions about winter weather emergencies.
Protect your home
Your home also needs protection from the winter elements. To keep out the cold, your home will need insulation, caulking, and weather stripping.
When temperatures drop below freezing, frozen pipes can cause major leaks that damage your home and waste a lot of water. If there is a winter storm or freezing temperatures in the forecast, dripping your faucets may help prevent your pipes from bursting. However, many people may have no running water or need to conserve their water usage. In this case, do not drip faucets when temperatures are above freezing. Wrapping your pipes with towels may help keep them from freezing. If you drip your faucets, concentrate on the faucets closest to the exterior walls and set them to 5-15 drips per minute. Open cabinet doors to circulate warmer air around the plumbing.
Another method of preventing burst pipes is insulating them and placing covers on their water hoses outside.
For those with private water wells, place an insulated blanket that can fit over the top of a water well tank to protect it from freezing. It can also help to turn off and drain outside faucets before temperatures hit extremely low levels.
Be on the lookout for any leaks or burst pipes around your home and property and if you know that your pipes are frozen, shut off the water immediately. Thaw pipes with warm air by using a hairdryer or hot towel. Before turning the water back on, diligently check for cracks caused by freezing. Make sure you know where your main water valve is located so you can cut off your water in case of an emergency, like a burst pipe. In residential areas, it's usually located outside near the water meter.