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Pets, plants, pipes and more: How to prepare for freezing temperatures

Ice hangs from electric lines in Austin during a winter storm on Feb. 2.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Ice hangs from electric lines in Austin during a winter storm on Feb. 2.

This piece originally ran Dec. 21, 2022

Here's some advice as cold temperatures make their way into the Austin area.

Is your emergency bag ready?

Austin emergency officials recommend having an emergency supply kit ready to go in case you're stuck at home or need to evacuate.

Be sure to include things like a basic first aid kit, extra cash, home and car keys, clothes, emergency contact info, pet supplies, chargers, water, non-perishable food and hygiene items. A full list of recommendations from the city can be found here.

Pets get cold, too

Dogs, cats and cattle can get just as cold as people when freezing temperatures roll in. Morgan Siewert with Austin Pets Alive said animals with little to no fur are even more vulnerable.

"We should limit their time outside, especially if they're kind of shorter-coated dogs, smaller dogs,” she said. “In general, kind of think about it: If you're bundled up and a little chilly, they are probably also a little chilly."

As far as outdoor cats go, try putting down some dry material like straw or styrofoam for them to lie on, as opposed to a blanket. And be sure to check on and refill any outdoor water bowls.

Preserve your plants

Texas A&M AgriLife recommends watering all your plants before the freeze hits. Move plants inside if you can. If you can’t bring them in, move them to the south side of the house, water them and pile on mulch, leaves or hay to keep the roots alive.

Covering your plants is also an option. You can drape them with cardboard or cloth, but secure it to the ground. That’ll help trap warm air.

Pipes need protecting

Water expands when it freezes, and pipes aren’t designed to accommodate that, Brad Casebier, CEO of Radiant Plumbing and Air Conditioning, told KUT in 2021. If you have outdoor faucets or pipes that are exposed, wrap and insulate them to prevent them from bursting.

He recommends knowing your home before the freeze makes its way into the region. That's especially important this weekend as plumbing businesses might be closed for the holiday.

“Even if you don't have an active leak, go figure out how you're going to shut your [water off],” Casebier said. “And then when it happens, then you're prepared and you're not in a complete panic trying to get that done.”

It’s still good practice to drip your pipes he says, but Austin Emergency Management recommends dripping only one faucet when it drops below freezing.

Open cabinets beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes.

Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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