City Officials Urge Those Who Can To Stay At Home Amid Worsening Weather

Mayor John Whitmire warned residents on Monday to stay off the roads and hunker down at their homes until the hazardous, wintery conditions calm down.
Mayor John Whitmire warned residents on Monday to stay off the roads and hunker down at their homes until the hazardous, wintery conditions calm down. Screenshot
Mayor John Whitmire joined city officials at the Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center – one of the city’s warming centers – to urge Houston residents to stay home and take the necessary precautions to stay warm safely.

During the Monday afternoon press conference, Whitmire announced that all city nonessential workers would be instructed to work from home on Tuesday and others who could should do so to avoid inclement road conditions.

“I think the city should lead by example. We’re not going to have city workers go into City Hall tomorrow (Tuesday) or at their respective locations,” Whitmire said. “Except for essential workers, first responders, certainly (Houston) Public Works, (Houston) Health Department. The people that need to be on the job during these challenging times will be there.

Before Whitmire’s request, those with the Office of Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth took to X, formerly Twitter, to alert the public that the office would be closed due to the wintery weather conditions expected to continue on Tuesday.
Officials are encouraging everyone to stay home for the next couple of days because first responders are seeing an uptick in cold weather-related wrecks due to ice-coated, slippery roads.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña cautioned drivers who have to be out on these streets to be wary of overpasses and bridges as these are likely to freeze first.

Peña also reiterated concerns he addressed in a press conference held last week ahead of Monday’s wintery conditions regarding safe ways to stay warm, as the department had already received eight weather-related calls and responded to five carbon monoxide incidents.

Peña reminded residents not to use stoves and ovens or bring grills indoors as makeshift sources of heat as this could easily lead to getting poisoned by the colorless, odorless gas. He added that someone who elects to use a space heater for temporary heating should place it at least three feet away from any flammable item.

“Make sure that you are taking the appropriate precautions to stay warm, but as I said, don’t sacrifice safety for warmth,” Peña said.

Officials reminded the public that the city decided to open its warming centers for those needing a space to stay warm earlier at 3 p.m. instead of later Monday night as initially planned.

Houston Health Department’s Director Stephen L. Williams said Houston residents are welcome inside any location but added that these centers were not meant to be shelters.

“This is not a shelter. It is a warming center. The purpose of this is really to get folks out of harm’s way,” Williams said. “As you can see, the setup, it's comfortable, and it's warm in here, but it’s not our intention to really set up a shelter. That is more for long-term use.”

Williams added that anyone who needed to come to a warming center but had no transportation access could call the city service 3-1-1 number to be provided with a ride.

“We really want to reiterate that because we know a lot of seniors are in their homes and oftentimes are really shy about or really hesitant to leave their home environment,” he said.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner assured those worried about safety concerns at the city’s warming centers that officers would be stationed at each location to address any issues that could arise.

Whitmire said the city would re-evaluate whether city employees would return to work on Wednesday sometime Tuesday afternoon, as conditions could begin to improve.

He addressed concerns from the public regarding Houston ISD’s delayed decision about whether or not the district would close schools on Tuesday like other local school districts already had.

Whitmire said he had talked with Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles and that Miles had said the district planned to announce its decision around 5 p.m. About an hour after the press conference, the district shared in an email that it would be closing all schools and offices on Tuesday due to inclement weather.

Houston ISD also spread the news of the closure on X.

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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.