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The Ice Cometh: Get Ready for Bitter Cold and Frozen Roads

At area home improvement stores, pipe wrap flew off the shelves this week.EXPAND
At area home improvement stores, pipe wrap flew off the shelves this week.
Photo by Doogie Roux
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By Monday night, Houston will dip into some record territory, literally. Brutally cold Arctic air will flow into the re gion and drop temperatures not seen in 30 years. Now is the time to prepare.

Friday and Saturday

Today and tomorrow, it will be dreary and cold. This is the kind of weather Houston sees maybe once or twice a year. It's Seattle-like and chilly. Highs will be in the low 40s with lows in the mid 30s with plenty of clouds, maybe a bit of drizzle, but it should mostly be dry particularly on Saturday.


Sunday is when the cold really sets in. Daytime highs will get into the 40s and we could even see a peek of sun. But that will change rapidly by late afternoon and early evening when a system moves into the area bringing much colder weather and freezing precipitation. What kind of freezing precipitation, you ask? We'd love to say it will be a lovely, snowy wonderland. But, more likely, we will get a messy combination of sleet and ice that is likely to coat everything.

Lows overnight Sunday will reach the mid 20s along with that wintry mix. There might be some snow in there, but it will be into Monday morning.

Monday and Tuesday

At this point, it is unlikely to get above freezing on Monday. That could mean 24 to 36 hours below freezing including temperatures dropping incredibly into the teens — 15 in the city and colder north and west. It is the hardest freeze Houston has seen since the '80s. Make no mistake, it is going to be bitterly cold and a total mess on area highways. Fortunately, temperatures will jump back up into the 40s under some sunshine on Tuesday. Hopefully it will be enough to melt any accumulations of ice on area roadways by Wednesday when another blast of cold air arrives (though not as bad as Tuesday).

Roads and Bridges

Expect icing on roads to begin overnight Sunday. If we get some significant ice followed by even a modest amount of snowfall, many roads will simply be impassible. If you saw the horrific multi-car pile up in Fort Worth Thursday morning, you understand why getting on the roads Monday is a terrible, dangerous idea.

The roads will remain that way until temperatures climb above freezing and stay there for an extended period. Hopefully, that will happen Tuesday afternoon. Until then, best to stay put.

Pipes, Plants and Pets

This is the first time in a very long time we have needed to be legitimately concerned about our outdoor pipes. In the '80s when temperatures dropped into the teens, there were burst pipes all across the city. This will be just as bad. Wrap any exposed pipes with pipe wrap or, if not available, use towels or old t-shirts. Exposed metal is the biggest issue. Inside, let your water run at a drip. Running water doesn't freeze as easily. Also, open your cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom to let warm air in from the heater.

For plants, cover everything as much as possible with frost cloth or tarps. Smaller trees should have trunks wrapped and, when possible, covered. Watering plants at the root thoroughly before the freezing begins can also help keep plants strong for the weather. Any plants that can be moved inside should be. A lot will die and that's just the reality. Protect whatever you can.

Pets, just get them inside and keep them there. Period.

While we will get another freezing round on late Wednesday, it will not get as cold as Tuesday night and we should return to some more normal weather by Thursday and into the weekend. Stay safe!

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