When Texas’s mild weather turns cold and icy, residents need to know how to stay warm and survive potential power outages. Sleet, ice, snow, and heavy winds can impact power lines, which in turn can cause your lights, power, and furnace to shut off.
It’s unusual for extended power outages to last for days, but Winter Storm Uri in February 2021 proved that an overwhelmed power grid with lingering freezing temperatures can create a mess. Preparation and knowing what to do in the middle of a storm can keep you warm and safe until power is restored.
Prep for Power Outages
It’s wise to plan in advance so you’re not scrambling when the temperatures drop. Avoid the last-minute rush to the store and gather items for your winter weather survival kit early in the season:
- Make sure you have flashlights with fresh batteries and candles with working lighters.
- Charge your cell phones and other devices like tablets and handheld games.
- Ensure wireless chargers are also charged.
- Have dry wood ready for the fireplace or make sure gas is working.
- Stock up on bottled water and non-perishable food.
- Save the utility company number (TDU) to your phone or write it down so you can call if there is a downed line or outage.
- Buy or check your power generator if you have necessary medical equipment that needs powered during a blackout.
- Gather plenty of blankets, books, and things to do.
- Have a plan for refrigerated medications or food items to keep cold.
- Fill the freezer as it will stay colder longer if it’s full.
- Weatherize your windows and door seals in advance.
- Prep your pipes. Frozen water and burst pipes can create an expensive mess in the aftermath of a winter storm. Insulate pipes ahead of time, especially pipes in cabinets and those located in outside-adjacent walls.
The Power’s Out — What Now?
Check on your neighbors to make sure the blackout is impacting your neighborhood, not just a malfunction with your home’s furnace or meter. Don’t panic and follow these expert tips for staying warm and safe:
- Call the utility company to report the outage — don’t assume they know. The TDUs maintain the power lines, not Payless Power, so they are the responsible party for restoring power.
- Layer on clothes, socks, hats, and other warm clothes.
- Gather in one room. Close off the room if possible to retain heat in one area.
- Sleep in one room with the least windows, where warm air can escape. Snuggle under warm blankets and use body heat to generate warmth.
- Cover windows or close blinds at night. Open blinds to let the sun shine in during the day, unless windows are drafty and not well insulated.
- If pipes aren’t insulated, open cabinet doors in the bathrooms and kitchen. Close the garage door. If a faucet is connected to a pipe in a wall that leads to the outside, let it drip or trickle to keep the pipe from freezing.
- Stay inside. Don’t keep opening and closing the door (or leaving it open for a long time), as you’re letting valuable heat escape.
What Not to Do in Power Outages
- Don’t use propane or gas stoves or heaters continuously to heat your home, which could result in high levels of carbon monoxide with extended use.
- Don’t keep small appliances and valuable electronics (laptops, TVs, modern washer/dryers) plugged in. Unplug them so they don’t short-circuit if there is a power surge. Wait for power to be restored and steady before plugging them back in.
- Don’t keep opening your refrigerator or freezer.
- Don’t run your generator inside or near your home. Keep it 15 feet away from your home in a well-ventilated area due to toxic fumes. Read more from Ready.gov on generator safety.
- Don’t touch downed power lines or start cleaning up too early. Keep kids away from debris around downed lines.
After Power is Restored
Once your power is back on, it’s time to walk around the house and evaluate how you fared.
- Check food in the fridge and freezer. If food is 40 degrees or higher for more than two hours, it needs to be thrown out. The freezer keeps foods fresh for up to 48 hours. It’s not worth getting sick to save a few dollars on food.
- Don’t forget about refrigerated medicine. Call your doctor’s office if it’s been more than 24 hours without staying at its desired temperature.
- Inspect for damaged pipes or standing water. Look for water leaks on walls or ceilings. Turn on faucets.
- Check your hot water heater. It might take an hour or two for hot water to heat up following a power outage. Give it time. If it still doesn’t heat up, check to see if a breaker was tripped in the outage.
- Call a plumber for unresolved water issues.
- Make a note of what was most helpful in the outage and what was missing so you can replenish supplies and keep a list for next time.
Preparing for winter weather in Texas makes all the difference for safety, comfort, and survival at home. For savings on your electricity bill year-round, find a Payless Power no-deposit plan fit for your household.