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Blackouts, Icy Roads & Burst Pipes: Tips On Getting Through The Winter Storm In North Texas

Man waist-deep in ice and snow trying to clear ice from frozen solid fountain.
LM Otero
/
AP
City of Richardson worker Kaleb Love works to clear ice from a water fountain Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.

With this week's extreme cold and heavy snow blanketing much of the state, here are some quick tips on food, travel and housing for North Texans braving the extreme cold and snow.

How To Get Food

Which grocery stores are open? Do they have adjusted hours?

Some stores in the area have been forced to close due to widespread power outages. Here's a list of what some local supermarket chains are planning for the sites that are able to open:

Kroger’s temporary hours today are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

You can check to see if your nearest Walmart is open here.

Most Trader Joe’s locations in North Texas are closed, but the Far North Dallas location at 14856 Preston Road is open until 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Both Tom Thumb and Albertsons have some open locations with an early closure of 8 p.m. today, though stores may close sooner if conditions are unsafe for workers. Expect a delayed opening Wednesday at 8 a.m.

Sprouts Farmers Market has a list of open stores and adjusted hours here.

How To Get Around

If I have to travel, what safety precautions should I take?

AAA Texas says modern vehicles don't need to idle or “warm up” before driving in cold weather. Check to make sure your exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with ice or snow. A blocked exhaust could cause carbon monoxide gas to leak into the vehicle.

Once you’re on the road, drive slowly and brake gently to avoid skidding on ice. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skidding.

Is DART/TRE Operating?

Dallas Area Rapid Transit has suspended rail operations through the start of service on Thursday, Feb. 18. Buses are operating on a Saturday schedule today, but expect delays.

TRE has suspended operations through the start of service on Thursday, February 18.

How To Stay Safe At Home

How do I go about filing insurance claims for damaged property?

Amy Bach, president of the non-profit United Policyholders, says you should first pull out your insurance policy's front page to find your deductible. That will help you understand how much you might pay out of pocket.

"You need to be the polite but squeaky wheel and that means flexing your consumer muscle if you need to," Bach says. "Writing letters, filing complaints with the Texas Department of Insurance but most importantly, focusing on the fact that you have an asset that needs to be restored and do whatever you need to do to get that asset restored."

Bach says you should take notes on all your interactions with your insurance agency.

What do I do if there’s a boil water notice in my area?

As of Wednesday, Feb. 17, there is a boil water notice in effect in northern Fort Worth, as well as several cities that buy drinking water from Fort Worth: Haslet, Keller, Lake Worth, Northlake, Roanoke, Saginaw, Southlake, Trophy Club, Westlake. Anna, Keller, Benbrook, Princeton, and Richland Hills are also under a boil water notice.

Arlington and Tyler also announced boil water notices Wednesday morning.

The Centers for Disease Control advises people affected by the notice to bring water meant for consumption (e.g. cooking, brushing teeth, drinking) to a rolling boil for at least two minutes. Pets can get sick from contaminated water too, so keep them in mind.

Don’t use water from appliances connected to your water line, like ice machines and water filters in your fridge.

The CDC says you don’t have to boil your water to shower, but be careful not to swallow any water while you shower.

What do I do with food if my power goes out? How long will it last?

The Centers for Disease Control says food will stay safe for up to four hours in the refrigerator and up to 48 hours in a freezer that’s full (or 24 hours in a half-full freezer). You should throw our perishable food like meat, fish, eggs and milk after four hours without power.

How do I conserve energy during a power outage?

If you have power, turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees. Try to keep shades and blinds closed to reduce heat loss through windows.

What heat sources should I avoid during a power outage?

Due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, you should not use ovens, stovetops or grills to heat your home.

The Texas Department of State Health Services urges people to be cautious with electric generators and other heat sources that produce carbon monoxide.

Health officials say generators should be placed outdoors, at least 10 feet away from buildings. They should never be operated indoors or in garages.

Outdoor grills also create carbon monoxide and should not be used indoors.

If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Don't leave cars or any fueled motor vehicles idling indoors, even with an open garage door.

If you're using a portable heater, give it space. Keep flammable items at least 3 feet away. Don't refill portable heaters while they're on or still hot, and always refuel them outdoors.

How do I protect my pipes from cold weather?

Make sure all outside pipes are insulated, as well as pipes in the unheated parts of your home like attics, basements and crawl spaces. Disconnect your garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Use newspaper or rags as insulation, if you can’t get your hands on foam piping. American Red Cross says even a ¼ inch of newspaper can provide some protection.

Let cold water drip from indoor faucets that are in or near your home's exterior walls. Try to keep cabinet doors that contain water pipes, like your kitchen and bathroom sinks, open to let heat circulate.

The City of Fort Worth recommends identifying your main water shut-off valve, in case of an emergency. You should also try to shut your water off if you plan to leave your home.

How to Turn Off Water to Your Home to Prevent Water Main Breaks

Tammy Thomas with Angel Plumbing in Mesquite says it's a good idea to locate your main water shut-off valve, as warming temperatures will start to reveal busted pipes between now and Friday. There is a special, t-shaped key you'll need that you can buy at a hardware store.

Thomas also recommends filling up a bathtub before shutting off your water as a way to fill a toilet tank.

Where can I stay if I don’t have power?

The City of Dallas has set up a warming center at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. You can access the warming center located in Exhibit Hall A through the Canton Street entrance. This is not an overnight shelter, and cots will not be provided. COVID-19 screenings are required at sign-in, and no ID is required to stay.

There is also an overnight warming center at the Fort Worth Convention Center. It'll be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Cots are available, but no pets are allowed. The city's also set up warming stations. They include the Worth Heights Community Center on New York Avenue; the Handley Meadowbrook Community Center on Beaty Street; and the Diamond Hill Community Center on 36th Street. These are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The City of Richardson has set up several warming centers across the city. You can check the operating hours of each location here.

The City of Plano has a warming center at Grace Church Plano at 3301 Preston Road. It’ll be open around the clock until Thursday evening. Pets are not allowed.

The Arlington Life Shelter at 325 W. Division Street is accepting people in need of emergency shelter through the weekend.

The Salvation Army also has six warming stations open across North Texas.

                          The organization says the strictest protocols are being followed to the prevent the spread of COVID-19.
                          Several YMCAs in Dallas, Denton, Ellis, and Rockwall Counties have warming centers open through Friday, Feb. 19 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. They’ll have charging stations, WiFi access, water stations, and locker rooms for anyone who needs a hot shower.

                          KERA's Paige Phelps contributed to this story.

                          Got a tip? Email Miguel Perez at mperez@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @quillindie.

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