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Weather service, city, county offer guidance before bitter cold arrives

 National forecast map for Thursday puts winter
NWS
/
National forecast map for Thursday puts winter

By Thursday morning, Texas was already feeling the cold front's strength. The National Weather Service reported that when the front reached Amarillo, temperatures dropped 25 degrees almost immediately.

A strong cold front will bring temperatures to near or below freezing before sunset Thursday over the Hill Country and Austin. It will reach San Antonio by midday with gusty winds and a fast drop in temperatures, according to the National Weather Service.

By Thursday morning, Texas was already feeling the cold front's strength. The NWS reported that when the front reached Amarillo, temperatures dropped 25 degrees almost immediately.

Forecasters said winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour were likely in San Antonio, with gusts up to 40 mph at times. Those winds will generate wind chills in the single digits in the city and below zero across the Hill Country.

A wind advisory will be in effect for the area except Maverick, Dimmit, and Zavala counties on Thursday afternoon and evening. A wind chill warning will be in effect for the entire area Thursday evening through midday Friday. Below zero wind chills are most likely in the Hill Country and Austin.

For Maverick, Dimmit, and Zavala Counties including the city of Eagle Pass, wind chill values will remain slightly less cold, in the 8 to 15 degree range.

A hard freeze warning is also in place beginning Thursday evening, and that will continue through Saturday.

The National Weather Service released the following guidance to residents in South Texas and the Hill Country: "Take action to protect vulnerable communities such as the elderly and the unhoused. Check on your neighbors and take steps to winterize your home. Protect pets, plants, and pipes, and if you don`t have to spend extended periods of time outdoors during the coldest conditions, stay inside and stay warm."

ERCOT said it expected sufficient power generation to meet forecasted demand, but CPS Energy urged energy conservation to help residents save money on their bills.

The tips below come from the city, county and its partners. They strongly urged all residents to prepare for cold weather by remembering the Four Ps: people, pets, plants and pipes.

People

Keep warm and dress in layers. Check on family, friends and neighbors who may be more vulnerable to this week’s cold weather or may not have access to housing and heating, including the elderly and those with special needs.

San Antonio Fire Department recommends:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Install and maintain CO (carbon monoxide) alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Never use a generator indoors.
  • Always plug portable heaters directly into a wall socket (no power strips).
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Never leave children unattended in a room with a space heater.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month. 


311 Customer Service is open from 7 a.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 22 and 23. 311 will operate throughout the holidays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Residents may call 311 (210-207-6000) or use the 311 SA mobile app.

Rental Property Tips

Landlords are obligated to maintain their rental properties to the minimum standards set by the San Antonio Property Maintenance Code (Sec 6-52). Heating equipment must be able to maintain a minimum inside temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit (measured three feet above the floor). To report suspected violations, call 311 (210-207-6000).

City and County Warming Centers

The City and County will open seven warming centers (listed below) to offer short-term emergency shelter starting this Thursday, Dec. 22, at 3 p.m. Anyone coming to the center should bring clothes, supplies and medicine. The centers are accessible and inclusive. Kennels will be available in a separate area for pets at the Normoyle, South Side Lions and Garza centers.

  1. Normoyle Community Center — 700 Culberson Ave, 78225
  2. South Side Lions Senior Center — 3303 Pecan Valley Drive, 78210
  3. Garza Community Center — 1450 Mira Vista, 78228
  4. Christ the King Lutheran Church — 1129 Pat Booker Road, Universal City, 78148 
  5. Emergency Services District 5 — 7120 E. 6th Street, Somerset, 78069
  6. Emergency Services District 3 — 23103 Bulverde Road, San Antonio, 78259
  7. Emergency Services District 7 — 11617 Galm Road, San Antonio, 78254


VIA

VIA passengers may travel fare-free to or from a warming center. Passengers using VIA bus service or VIA Link should alert the bus operator when boarding; VIAtrans passengers should alert the reservation agent when booking a VIAtrans trip.

Residents may also call 311 (210-207-6000) to request a trip to a warming center. Emergency trips cannot be arranged directly with VIA.

Unsheltered Individuals

Last week, the city and its non-profit partners — including Corazon Ministries, Christian Assistance Ministry, Haven for Hope and Communities Under the Bridge — began contacting unsheltered individuals to provide them with warm weather clothing, blankets, transportation, shelter and meal information. Haven for Hope has expanded intake hours and emergency bed capacity. Communities Under the Bridge will open for meals and shelter Dec. 22-25.

The Homeless Connections Hotline (210-207-1799) is available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 22-23.

Pets

Pets should be brought indoors and provided with a warm place to sleep. State law dictates dogs cannot be tethered with any size chain at any time; it also states dogs cannot be left outdoors restrained and unattended in the case of officially defined extreme weather or situations in which an animal is in severe distress including conditions in which the actual or effective outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Animal Care Officers will be on patrol through the rest of the week. Potential violators can face impoundment of their pet, fines up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail for repeat offenders. To report suspected violations, call 311 (210-207-6000).

Farm Animals and Livestock

Farm animals and livestock rely on their humans to protect them and keep them safe.

  • Have adequate food and water. Animals and livestock should have plenty of food and a steady supply of water. During extremely cold temperatures, water will freeze. You will need to break up ice or replace the frozen water.
  • Provide warm bedding. Make sure that there is adequate bedding for each animal. 
  • Add extra feed. Animals need to eat more in cold weather to provide extra calories for heat energy. 

Plants

Plants may need to be covered or brought inside to avoid frost damage.

Pipes

San Antonio Water System reminds residents:

  • Allow one internal faucet to slowly drip to keep water moving in your pipes during coldest temperatures. 
  • If your home has plumbing in cabinets on outside walls without insulation, leave the cabinet doors open to allow warmer indoor air to circulate. 
  • Cover and insulate outdoor pipes. Local hardware stores have foam insulation and faucet protectors, but even wrapping pipes with rags or newspapers will do. 


SAWS has created a webpage with infographics and how-to videos in both English and Spanish to prepare for and prevent water emergencies at saws.org/BeReady. It's also available in Spanish.

Know where your meter cutoff valve is. If pipes freeze, the guides above include instructions in English and Spanish on how to turn off water at the meter.

CPS Energy

CPS Energy crews are prepared to respond to any local weather-related outages. High winds are in the forecast, and CPS Energy reminds residents to stay away from downed power lines and report them at 210-353-4357 (HELP). Do NOT attempt to move or drive over the lines.

The utility has also announced it will not make disconnections during the holidays or during the upcoming cold snap.

Sign up for Energy Alerts or call 210-353-2222 to provide your emergency contact information.

CPS Energy has created winter preparation pages in English at CPSenergy.com/Prepare and Spanish at CPSenergy.com/Preparar. For additional winter safety tips, visit www.cpsenergy.com/wintersafety.

Air Travelers

The San Antonio International Airport recommends air travels check for weather delays by contacting their airline, especially anyone with travel plans in from Kansas to the East Coast. A winter storm is pushing east this week and could cause prolonged travel delays at airports including Chicago, Detroit, New York City, and D.C. More contact information is available here.

Resources

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Brian Kirkpatrick has been a journalist in Texas most of his life, covering San Antonio news since 1993, including the deadly October 1998 flooding, the arrival of the Toyota plant in 2003, and the base closure and realignments in 2005.