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Historic Texas Freeze Creates Dangerous Situations for Katy Families


February 16, 2021

By Natalie Cook Clark

Sub-freezing temperatures and power outages are creating dangerous situations for Katy families as they desperately try to create heat. Residents need to know how to properly stay warm and avoid house fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, crime, and other dangers related to this epic weather event.

Photo courtesy: Chris Harris

Millions Without Power, Families Desperate to Stay Warm

4.3 million Texas homes are without power. Families throughout the state are desperately trying to stay warm in these sub-freezing temperatures. However, authorities warn residents to remain safe while trying to stay warm.

Fire Departments See Increased Calls

“We’ve been getting around 105 calls per a 24-hour period,” says Jason Tharp, Division Chief of Community Risk Reduction and Public Information Officer for Harris County ESD No. 48 Fire Department. “On a normal day we get 25-35 calls for fire and EMS.”

Like many area fire departments, they are working to respond to all calls, but residents can expect a lengthier response times due to hazardous road conditions.

As residents resort to using their cars, grills, and generators to stay warm, they should heed the warnings from authorities about carbon monoxide risks. Houston has already reported multiple deaths and hospitalizations due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Only use a generator outdoors and far from open windows and vents,” says Tharp. “Never use a generator indoors, in garages or carports, and never cook inside on a charcoal or gas grill.”

Many Katy homes have fireplaces that are rarely used or haven’t been serviced in years, which can present a fire hazard. While many homes are without power, residents are using the fireplace for their primary heat source. Last night, first responders reported to, and contained, a chimney fire in a Falcon Point home.

“Always keep the flue open to avoid smoke backing up in the house,” says Tharp. “Keep everything at least three feet from the fire and keep a close eye on pets. They tend to be curious especially when our fireplaces don’t see as much use here.”

Tips to Stay Safe and Warm:

  • Put refrigerated items in coolers or outside

  • Trickle your faucet to prevent freezing

  • Eat perishable items first

  • Huddle together in a small room

  • Run a steamy shower if you have water

  • Keep moving, do jumping jacks, run in place, etc., to generate body heat

  • Snuggle up with pets and family members

Save your food in coolers. Photo courtesy: Jennifer Miko

Don't Wait to Seek Help

Some residents require medical assistance. As power outages are expected to continue, now is the time to take stock of medications and supplies.

“It’s important to start looking for help now,” says Tharp. “If you require oxygen, start looking now for a third party to be ready to refill it. Don’t wait.”

Residents can call 311 if they need help and have a medical condition the requires power.

Watch Out for a Rise in Crime

Crime Stoppers of Houston warns residents about an uptick in crimes of opportunity. Their anonymous tip line remains open 24/7. Call them at 713-222-TIPS to report crimes and suspicious activities.

Authorities advise residents to always be attentive and aware of their surroundings especially at gas stations and parking lots. Keep children close and let loved ones know of your location.

“Do not let individuals dressed in energy service uniforms into your home,” says Crime Stoppers of Houston.

This is a developing story as sub-freezing temperatures and more freezing rain is expected in the Katy area tonight.


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