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Saturday, February 4, 2023

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Winter freeze preparations for Texans to consider


Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

The historic Texas winter freeze last year led to a crisis in the power grid and a death toll of 246. Of that number, 161 resulted from extreme temperatures. 

UH spokesperson Bryan Luhn shared the importance of staying prepared for Texas winter freeze conditions.

 “It is always important to be prepared, whether it’s having the proper warm clothing or preparing our homes for the bitterly cold temperatures,” Luhn said. “And while it’s rare for the Houston area, ice can pose significant threats, from downed power lines to treacherously slick sidewalks and roads.”

 Texas winters, though usually considered moderate compared to other regions, have become increasingly unpredictable. 

During last year’s freeze, many families without power resorted to their cars for warmth, which resulted in numerous carbon monoxide poisoning-related deaths. An article published by the Texas Department of Insurance outlined the best ways to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter. 

It is important that people understand the risks of using their cars, stoves, fireplaces or furnaces as heating systems. People should avoid running their cars in closed garages specifically, as that led to many deaths in 2021.  

If carbon monoxide builds up in an environment, the gas begins replacing the oxygen supply, usually without anyone realizing it. According to the TDI, this can make you short of breath or cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness or even death. They suggest people install and test carbon monoxide detectors throughout their homes and in garages. 

In case of power outages or winter weather emergencies, Get Ready Texas compiled a list of items to prepare in an abundance of caution. The list includes non-perishable goods, one gallon of water per person per day, a first aid kit, batteries, flashlights, portable chargers, batteries, copies of important documents in air-tight plastic bags and blankets. 

When asked about being prepared, Luhn explained that three days’ worth of emergency food and water is ideal. 

“If you’re going outside, make sure you wear multiple layers of lightweight, warm clothing and a water-repellent outer layer,” Luhn said. “Make sure your vehicle has enough anti-freeze, and have a mechanic check your brakes, heater, defroster, tires and windshield wiper to make sure they’re in good shape.” 

The power outages as a result of the 2021 winter freeze were attributed to the failures of the Texas power grid, which left millions without power for many days. Particularly during record-freezing temperatures, the loss of power made it more difficult for people to stay warm, which exacerbated the problem and led to a higher death toll. 

The best thing for students to do to stay safe and warm is to be prepared, whether it’s having the proper warm clothing or preparing our homes for the bitterly cold temperatures,  Luhn said.

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