Surviving the next Texas Ice Storm

Winter came early to north Texas last week when the rain turned into sleet and the temperatures plummeted 50 degrees from Wednesday’s high of 80.  The ice built up on all surfaces including tree limbs and power lines.  Some of the power lines snapped and others were ripped from poles when ice laden limbs broke off from trees and fell onto the already strained lines.

At the height of the post storm pelting 270,000 people consisting of home and business owners were without power.  Many went without power for over three days as they waited on strained power crews to reconnect and restring power lines to poles and to homes.  Most of us take for granted that when we flip a switch the light will turn on, the thermostat will activate the heat, and keep the food in the refrigerator cold and safe to eat.  Life becomes challenging when that doesn’t happen for several days.

What would you do if you lost power for several days?  Winter has just arrived and this could happen again, so it would be wise to have a plan.  There are a couple of ways a power loss could impact home owners across the Dallas / Fort Worth area including:

  • Spoiled food
  • Frozen pipes

Spoiled Food:  I was texting with a friend of mine in the Lake Highlands area who lost power early Friday morning.  Her home became uncomfortable rather quickly as the temperature in her home fell about 10 degrees an hour.  She grabbed a few items and some clothes and went with her dog to stay at a friend’s place.  Her adventure Monday evening when she returned home to power was cleaning the refrigerator out as all the food had spoiled.

Even with cool temperatures in a home, the interior temperature of a refrigerator may not be cool enough to keep food from spoiling.  Depending on how well stocked your refrigerator is, such a loss could be $200 or more.  Food spoilage is covered under many home and renter’s insurance policies, although that may not come close to the 1% deductible of most Texas home insurance policies.  If you experienced another loss during such a storm, be sure to include this in your claim, or find friends with room in their refrigerators to keep your food until power is returned.

Frozen Pipes:  One of the biggest potential home claims that can happen with a loss of power is frozen pipes.  This usually happens to water supply lines located in an exterior wall of the kitchen or a bathroom.  Pipes freeze and may eventually burst leading to a major water leak in your home.  I’ve seen claims of this nature from previous storms exceed $10,000.

There are two things you can do to help prevent this from happening:

  • Turn on both hot and cold taps to allow a steady drip of water from the sinks and bath tub or shower.
  • In really cold temperatures, consider turning off the water supply to your home and draining the lines by running a tap until nothing comes out.  If you have an electric water heater consider draining it too.

A colleague of mine who lives in Rockwall lost power.  She and her husband were headed to stay with a family.  While she and I talked, her husband, who happens to be a plumber, was turning off the water and draining the lines.  In order to do this, you’ll need a water key which can be purchased at any Home Depot, Lowes, or neighborhood hardware store.  This key unlocks the water supply cover (it looks like a man hole) that’s usually located by the curb in your front yard.

If you haven’t lost power, I still recommend keeping a steady drip running from all faucets and tubs or showers to keep lines from freezing.  Opening cabinets beneath sinks and allowing warmer air to circulate around the water supply lines will also help keep them from freezing.

A loss of power can be frustrating for anyone.  Knowing what to do in these cases can help you avoid coming home to an unwelcome surprise and survive the next Texas ice storm.  What else would you recommend?  Share your comments, suggestions, and questions with me on our Google + and Facebook pages or in the comments section of our blog.

Stay warm!

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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