It was 82 degrees in Austin last week, so it might not look like it, but: winter is coming.
Winter in Texas has rarely meant days of sub-freezing temperatures, blackouts and water cuts, but Texans learned all too well in February that the possibility of such events is well. real. Winter storm Uri brought heavy snowfall and ice, and the state’s power grid could not keep up. Millions of people have lost electricity, some for days. More than 200 people have died statewide.
This winter will likely be warmer and drier than usual in central Texas, according to a forecast of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But the The Farmer’s Almanac, who claims to have predicted February’s storm, says the end of January could bring “potentially frigid and fluffy weather like the one you experienced last winter.” Whether or not Austin is hit by another winter storm, it’s best to prepare now than during the event.
Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) promotes four main actions to prepare for emergencies like a winter storm: make a plan, build a kit, know your neighbors, and stay informed.
Gather supplies for a kit
Perhaps the most important thing is to make sure you have a stash of the essentials. During the February storm, many people were confined to their homes without electricity or running water for several days.
You will also need food, water, and any prescription drugs you use.
Matt Lara, a public information officer for the HSEM office in Austin, says it’s best to gather enough food, water and medicine for seven days. When it comes to food, think about non-perishable items, like canned foods, dried fruits, cereals, and protein bars. And you don’t have to buy wholesale all at once.
âYou don’t have to create your complete kit now. Start small and plan big, âLara said. âDo these little things when you go to the store, grab a few extra canned items that will have a long shelf life so you don’t have to constantly replace them. “
For water, Lara says a good rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person per day for seven days. Keep in mind that this water may need to be divided between drinking and other needs, such as washing hands, filling the toilet, and cooking.
Have a plan
In the event of a disaster, you may not be at home with your family. Make a plan for how you will contact them and where you will meet them.
During a winter storm, phones and computers can lose power. In this case, you will want to have a list of the phone numbers of your family members, as well as contact details for other important entities, such as doctors and service providers. FEMA provides instructions on how to develop an emergency communications plan.
You will also want to consider the diverse needs of your family members. Is there some emergency medical equipment that you will need in the event of a power outage? How will you protect your pets or service animals? Ready.gov has tips for prepare an emergency kit for your pets and other ways to strengthen your emergency preparedness plan.
Know your neighbors
During a winter storm like the one we experienced in February, snow and ice can make roads inaccessible and slow emergency response times. It is therefore important to know the needs of your neighbors and how you can help them in an emergency.
Maybe your neighbor has health problems and needs help getting around or taking medicine. Or maybe they’ve lost power and heat, but you haven’t.
Neighbors helping neighbors improve community resilience, Lara says.
âThat’s one less person the emergency services eventually have to come to the aid of, and if those little pieces start to add up, the more overall we can be resilient,â said Lara. “It really does have an impact, just these little things go a long way.”
Know where to get information
In an emergency, you’ll want to stay up to date with the latest information. Lara says to register Notify Central Texas to receive alerts on the actions you need to take. You can subscribe to alerts by SMS, email or phone. You can also download the Application ready for central Texas, which provides updates, warnings, and other resources.
Many people rely on their phones for information, especially during power outages, so it is good to have a backup power source, such as a solar powered phone charger.
âWe saw during the winter storm it was cold, but it was definitely nice,â Lara said. âSo you can take advantage of anything that charges with solar power to help you get a little bit of information. “
You may also consider purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed. These radios provide weather information from the nearest national weather service. You can buy battery-powered or hand-cranked versions.
âIt’s definitely a great resource that we recommend everyone to have, some sort of third element of communication,â said Lara. âWe all rely on our phones and the internet. But the winter storm showed us, well, what do you do when it goes away? “
Other tips we learned from February
After the last storm, some people buy items they didn’t think they needed before, like proper winter clothing or even back-up generators, if they can afford it. KUT has launched a social media call to see what new things Austinites are doing to get ready.
But beware: Lara says if you get a generator or a new kind of emergency preparedness tool that you’re not familiar with, make sure you learn how to use it to avoid injuring yourself or to hurt others. FEMA warns never use a generator, camping stove, charcoal barbecue, or gasoline or propane heater indoors, as they can start fires or cause fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.
Here’s how you responded to our call:
- Indoor propane heater, portable solar panel to charge devices, emergency radio, two weeks of water, USB adapters – Schneems via Twitter
- Jackery generator with solar panel for charging, candles, buckets, maybe water filter like Lifestraw, baby wipes – Caroline B via Twitter
- Set up a tent inside to sleep – karawaane via Twitter
- Sleeping bags designed for extremely cold temperatures – Westchester Gasette via Twitter
- A snowsuit for newborns, appropriate winter gloves and boots – Marcela Gomez via Twitter
I stocked up on water, bought the newborn’s snowsuit, got a rescue package, ordered suitable winter gloves, boots (things we were able to do without until the last winter). If we could afford it, we would buy an all-wheel drive vehicle. Last year we had to be rescued. Don’t take any chances with baby here.
– Marcela Gomez (@marcelagmzfcn) November 19, 2021
- Canned water, hand and foot warmers, firewood – Fiona Lachatte via Twitter
- Outdoor faucet cover – Nick Olivier via Twitter
- âI started talking with a counselor about my nervousness for the onset of winter this year. “- shalynelise via Instagram
- “There is very little that I can [actually] do in terms of preparing the unit in which I live. â¦ To fill up on the food and supplies that I can afford is a very slow process which is [contingent] on my monthly budget. I think the best and only real preparation I can do is mental and emotional work. – moth_dance via Instagram
- A collapsible 4 gallon water tank and mini generator – miro_cassetta via Instagram
- Mylar covers, a few extra lanterns – vermoots via Instagram
- âDisposable tableware and cutlery when you can’t do the dishes. Reusable HEB bags and duct tape worked well to seal windows / doors / vents. – lrhill via Instagram
- âCommunity aid kept us alive, distributing firewood and water. – Marie Catrett via Facebook
- Blackout curtains to isolate the rooms – Victoria Cbo via Facebook
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