Reliably Austin
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How to prepare for freezing weather in Austin

Two people haul water bottles and other groceries from the trunk of a car on a snowy street.
Julia Reihs
KUT News
One rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person per day for seven days.

Lee esta historia en español

Ice and snow are relatively rare in Austin — but the big freeze of 2021 and the winter storm of 2023 have shown us that it's still important to be prepared. This is doubly true as climate change makes severe weather more likely in coming years.

“The climate is changing, and our emergency plans need to change too so that we can prepare,” said Billy Callis, senior public information officer for Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM). “People tend to think, ‘Oh well, it's Texas, it's warm. We don't have to worry about cold weather or ice storms.’ … That's clearly no longer the case.”

It’s always good to have a plan. Here is HSEM's, the City of Austin's and other trusted sources’ advice for getting through winter.

What supplies should I have on hand?

For people:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for seven days
  • Seven days’ worth of non-perishable food and a can opener
  • Seven days’ worth of medications 
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries 
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA Weather Radio
  • Warm blankets

For pets: 

  • Seven days’ supply of food, water and medications
  • Bowls
  • Collar, leash and ID tags
  • Copy of health records 
  • Carrier that has your pet’s name and your phone number

For cars: 

  • Cat litter or sand for tire traction 
  • Jumper cables 
  • Portable tire inflator
  • Flares or reflective triangles 
  • Ice scraper
  • Cell phone charger
  • Extra clothes and blankets
  • Paper maps 
  • Smaller set of supplies you’d plan for the house, like food and water 

The City of Austin has an emergency kit checklist available in 13 different languages. You can also find more detailed instructions for creating a kit or go-bag in the Neighborhood Preparedness Guide. And here’s a handy checklist about supplies for your pets.

What do I need to prep around my home?


  • Keep your cell phone charged. Consider getting a portable or solar-powered charger.
  • Reach out to family and neighbors. Have a conversation about any disabilities or medical conditions people should be aware of, and make a plan for how to contact each other if the power or internet goes out. 
  • Keep a list of phone numbers for family, neighbors and local emergency services.


  • Bring plants inside if you can. 
  • If you can’t, cover them with towels, blankets or commercial covers. 
  • Water outdoor plants in advance of a freeze. Under-watered plants are at greater risk in the cold.
  • Texas A&M AgriLife has more tips for protecting your plants.


  • Insulate outdoor faucets or pipes in exposed areas, like an attic or garage. You can buy insulation at hardware stores or use towels or newspapers.
  • Inside, you can open the cabinets under your sinks to warm up your pipes. 
  • The city's advice: If it’s freezing outside and you can’t keep the temperature up in your home, turn on a cold water faucet just enough for a slow and steady drip. Drip the faucet that’s the greatest distance from your main water shutoff valve. Don’t know where your water shutoff valve is? If you’re a homeowner, it’s next to the City of Austin’s water meter box. Austin Water has a video on how to locate it and turn off your water. If you’re a renter, ask your landlord or property manager.
  • Local plumbers' advice: Drip both hot and cold water faucets in rooms that have an exterior wall. If a faucet doesn’t have separate handles for hot and cold, like some kitchen sinks, drip lukewarm water. Read more guidance from plumbers on dripping faucets here.
  • If a power outage continues for more than 24 hours or a pipe breaks, shut off the water. 
  • Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for your tanked or tankless water heater.

Other tips for your home:

  • Check on how your home is doing year-round. Repair leaks, wall cracks, and broken windows and doors. 
  • Clear tree branches that might break and damage your house.
  • Keep rock salt, cat litter or sand on hand to keep your driveway and sidewalks safe. 

What do I need to know if the power goes out?

  • Never use a generator, camp stove, charcoal grill, or gas or propane heater inside. They can start fires or cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t use a stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Unplug appliances and turn off most lights. You can leave one light on so you know when the power is back. 
  • Keep your fridge door closed and take food out quickly when you need to. Check for guidance on how long food can last in the fridge or freezer and when to throw stuff out. 

What about walking or driving around during a winter storm?

  • Don’t go outside unless you have to. Know that walking around in the cold can make respiratory illnesses like asthma worse. 
  • If you have to drive, check your tire pressure, tire tread and battery. If your car has trouble starting or makes a clicking noise, or your lights are dim, that means the battery might be failing.
  • Don’t travel alone, and don’t leave kids, the elderly or pets in a car unattended.
  • Stay on main roads and avoid bridges and overpasses. Treat broken traffic lights like all-way stops.
  • If you have to walk outside, dress in layers and protect your head, hands and feet. Wear shoes that will give you traction in ice and snow.
  • Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Seek medical care if you or someone you’re with experiences exhaustion, confusion, loss of coordination, or pale, hard or numb skin. 
  • Find more tips on traveling in winter weather on the city’s website.

Where do I go if I don't have a place to stay?

  • The city opens cold weather shelters if the forecast predicts freezing temperatures overnight (or close-to-freezing temperatures with precipitation or wind chill). You can check if shelters are open and find info on where and how to register for them by calling 512-972-5055 or checking the city’s alerts page.

Where can I get local, trusted and up-to-date info?

Chelsey Zhu is the digital producer at KUT. Got a tip? You can email her at
Related Content