Austin can expect freezing temperatures this week. Here’s what we know
How to prepare for frost
With sub-freezing temperatures forecast Thursday night and Friday night, Austin Water recommends taking these precautions to protect property and water lines:
- Secure one gallon of water per person for a seven day supply. You can fill pitchers and containers with tap water or buy bottled water.
- Find your main shutoff valve and keep it clear of debris and obstacles at all times.
- Securely close doors and windows to the outside. Repair broken or drafty windows, doors and walls. Seal all leaks in crawl spaces and basements. Winterize unheated spaces and close garage doors for the duration of the freeze.
- Insulate pipes in unheated and drafty areas, such as an attic or garage. Also check the manufacturer’s recommendations for your tankless and tankless water heaters. Hardware and plumbing supply stores sell insulation to prevent pipes from freezing.
- Close outdoor faucets. Remove all connected pipes and wrap the faucets with towels or polystyrene insulation. Turn off and drain automatic sprinkler systems.
- If you plan to be away during a time when freezing temperatures are possible, turn your water off at the meter and set your thermostat to 65 degrees or higher.
In freezing weather, you must:
Open cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
Slowly run a cold water faucet if you feel your pipes may still freeze. The faucet you choose should be the one furthest from your main shutoff valve. It doesn’t have to be a running trickle. If you drip your faucet, collect the water for future use.
The state government is also preparing for a few cold days ahead. Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday ordered the State Operations Center to prepare for the effects of winter weather Thursday morning through the weekend.
Light snow was already falling in the Panhandle early Thursday with traces of winter mixing in southwest Texas.
“The State of Texas is prepared for severe winter conditions in the coming days and will provide all resources necessary to respond,” Abbott said in a statement. “As we continue to monitor weather conditions, Texans are encouraged to follow the advice of local officials and remain alert to changing weather conditions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”
OK, let’s start with the obvious: it’s really cold outside, especially considering how hot it was on Wednesday.
In the space of about 16 hours, temperatures in Austin – recorded at Camp Mabry, site of the city’s main weather station – dropped by Wednesday high of 81 degrees at 3:11 p.m. until low at 34 degrees (just 2 degrees above freezing) at 7 a.m. Thursdayaccording to the National Weather Service.
But the arrival of a cold front overnight not only introduced colder air than your refrigerator, it also ushered in a wintery mix of precipitation that could include sleet and snow showers.
A winter weather warning issued by the meteorological service for the Austin metro area and neighboring Hill Country remains in effect until 6 a.m. Friday.
Although forecasters expect a light accumulation of sleet or snow on grassy areas, the most dangerous threat will be ice forming on elevated or exposed road surfaces, such as bridges and highway overpasses.
But if the Austin area sees winter rainfall, it probably won’t last, according to Troy Kimmel, a professor of meteorology at the University of Texas.
“With temperatures above 80 degrees at Camp Mabry yesterday afternoon, the ground retained some of that warmth and any frozen precipitation (sleet or snow) occurring today is likely to melt upon reaching the ground,” wrote KImmel in his weather. Thursday newsletter. “Ground temperatures will eventually fall closer to freezing later in the night as precipitation decreases from west to east.”
In addition to humidity, the weather service warns of high winds of up to 35 to 40 mph, producing wind chills that will make temperatures feel more like those in the teens and 20s.
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From 8 a.m. Austin at Camp Mabrythe temperature was 34 degrees amid 14 mph north winds with gusts of up to 26 mph, producing a wind chill or “like” temperature of 25 degrees.
According to the Weather Service’s forecast for Austin, Thursday won’t get much warmer with a high of just 37 degrees. And forecasters have limited the chance of winter precipitation in the city to 20%.
At night, skies will remain mostly cloudy as temperatures drop to 27C with northerly winds of 10-15mph making it feel even colder.
Due to the expected overnight freeze, the City of Austin will open warming centers and cold weather shelters on Thursday, January 20. Warm-up centers will be available at:
- All Austin Public Libraries
- All Austin Recreation Centers and Senior Centers (lobby area)
- Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road
- George Washington Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.
- Dougherty Center for the Arts, 1110 Barton Springs Road
- Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.
Social distancing, masking and Austin capacity limits at city facilities will be in place.
For privacy reasons, the city does not publicize the location of cold weather overnight shelters. Those in need of shelter should come to One Texas Center at 505 Barton Springs Road between 6 and 8 p.m. They will be bussed to off-site cold weather shelters.
Temperatures will rebound on Friday under sunnier skies with a daytime high of nearly 47 degrees, the weather service said. But overnight temperatures will drop back below freezing with a low of 28.
But Kimmel advises everyone in central Texas to be aware of possible changes in the forecast.
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“I’m continuing my trend for (rainfall) to be a minimal event locally based on the latest guidelines,” he said. “However, this is still an edge situation that requires careful attention in case the following occurs today: Temperatures tend to be colder today than expected during periods of precipitation, especially due to evaporative cooling or a certain band of precipitation, which could lead to heavier precipitation today.”