Guide to Winter Storm Recovery in Texas and Southern States
February 22, 2021
The most recent weather event has caused a ripple effect in Texas and many other southern states. Because of the combination of snow and freezing temperatures, essential services have been disrupted. Millions of people lost electricity, water, and heat.
As the Texas power grids begin to recover, utilities will be restored, but for homeowners, the recovery process may be just beginning. The damage of frozen pipes and melting snow can cause additional issues. And because electricity during a flood is highly dangerous, there are safety risks too. The disaster has been called a "Katrina-scale crisis."
What should you do next? This checklist breaks down the most important steps for winter storm recovery in Texas and southern states.
Recovering After Severe Winter Storms and Outages
Even though the return of power can seem like the crisis is over, recovering from the storm and repairing your home may take time.
Remember to put safety first. The weather and outages have created a dangerous situation where lives and homes are at risk. Plus, there are additional life-threatening issues like carbon monoxide poisoning and electrocution from floodwaters. Remember to proceed cautiously, follow COVID-19 protocols, and check on elderly neighbors.
Continue to listen to the authorities, who will advise residents about the current state of services. Watch for advice about electricity usage, wafter safety system capacity, and other potential alerts. Recommendations from your local agencies and officials will help you best respond to the situation in your community.
Three Types of Water Issues in the Storm's Aftermath
As electric grids are restored, the next stage of the crisis will be about water.
One plumber told the Houston Chronicle, “We haven’t seen the worst of it yet,” adding, “We expect to be booked for two to three months." The Texas governor is considering allowing out-of-state plumbers to assist with the recovery.
Protect your home by watching for these three water issues during storm recovery:
After the winter storm, southern states will be dealing with snowmelt in areas that don't usually have snow. When considering what happens after snowmelt, keep in mind that the amount of water from this snowstorm isn't more than the region has seen during some of the recent floods. The rule of thumb is that every foot of snow will melt into about one inch of water.
Even though the snowmelt from this storm should be manageable, expect the melting snow to flow in different ways because the frozen ground could change drainage patterns. Watch for icy patches, and make sure storm drains remain clear. Be sure that melting snow isn't flowing back toward your home foundation, causing your basement, crawl space, or rest of your home to flood.
Many southern homes were not built in a way where the plumbing can withstand these freezing temperatures. With the cold weather and lack of heat, frozen and burst water pipes will be common during the aftermath of the crisis.
If a pipe has burst, you can prevent the non-stop flow of water by turning off the home's water supply at the main shutoff valve. If your water pipe is blocked because of a freeze but it hasn't burst, take care to thaw your pipes slowly because sudden temperature changes can cause pipes to burst.
It's important to keep the faucet open to prevent pressure buildup. As This Old House explains in their frozen pipe visualization, the pressure buildup from frozen pipes can reach 29,000 psi.
Residents should be prepared to deal with home flooding as a result of the storm. At the community level, flooding could be triggered by frozen fire hydrants, water main breaks, and poor drainage. Even within your home, it could take days or weeks before you know the extent of water damage from melting snow and frozen pipes.
Many of the recommendations for managing a flood after a hurricane will apply to the aftermath of this winter storm. Follow this guide to know what to do after a flood and how to minimize damage to your home.
Plan Ahead for New Weather Extremes
In Texas, the damage from storm and electricity outages is said to be equivalent to a 100-year flood.
This extreme weather pattern meant that Dallas had the coldest temperatures it's seen in the past 72 years, and it's the first time the whole state of Texas has been under a winter storm warning. As weather patterns start to change, the cities with the most frozen pipes could change to include southern states where homes weren't built to withstand extreme cold weather.
Following this crisis, leaders will undoubtedly seek to add more resilience to utility systems. However, you can also make modifications to your home that help you to be more prepared for weather extremes.
Homeowners may want to modify plumbing systems to move hot water heaters out of attics or uninsulated spaces. By improving your home's thermal efficiency and adding insulation, you can also help keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Adding important infrastructure like sump pumps with a battery backup can help you avoid the high cost of flooding. Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 in damages, and preventive measures are a smart investment. Structural improvements such as waterproofing or repairing foundation cracks can help you create a strong barrier of protection against extreme weather.
Want help from a pro? Get a free inspection from the country's leading foundation and waterproofing experts to learn how you can protect your home.