Last week’s cold snap had a catastrophic effect on Texas, with thousands of families left without power or water for over a week. With the state now slowly regaining its footing, we wanted to share available relief options and advice for getting your home back in order to help those affected have the resources they need to keep safe.
Organizations & Celebrities Lending a Hand
Aid to Texans impacted by the arctic blast began almost immediately, with social media and news channels flooded with charitable stories, and stations keeping updated lists for Austin, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio.
Food banks in three of the state’s major metros have set up donations to help get food to those who need it. Jimmy Kimmel mentioned a text-to-give drive orchestrated by ABC 13 on his show Thursday night, which helped raise more than $66,000 — enough for nearly 200,000 meals. Other food banks collecting donations include the North Texas Food Bank, San Antonio Food Bank, Feeding Texas and Central Texas Food Bank. The Austin Disaster Relief Network is accepting donations to help people needing emergency housing, gift cards and supplies.
Mattress Mac (Jim McIngvale) opened his furniture stores so that people could warm up, and he brought in food for the hundreds who sheltered there. When the power went out at the H-E-B in Leander, the store told patrons to simply take the food that was in their carts. Houston native Beyoncé is also lending a hand, with her non-profit BeyGood Foundation partnering with Adidas to provide one-time payments to those impacted by the winter storm.
Visit Bread of Life, Inc. to apply for disaster relief assistance.
How to Manage Burst Pipes & Thaw Frozen Ones
As the cold spell loosens its grip on Texas, plumbers are advising that homeowners pay careful attention to their plumbing lines. Locate your water meter if the pipe has burst and turn the main valve off to prevent further damage until a professional is able to fix it. If your pipes have not burst, you can keep the main valve on and turn a few faucets on in your home so that only a trickle of water comes out; running water through the pipes will help melt the ice. If you are unsure of whether your pipes are burst or safe to use, it is best to contact a local plumber, though it may be a few days before they’re able to visit with countless other families also reaching out.
Ask These 3 Things Before Hiring a Plumber
Prior to hiring a plumber to do work in your home, it’s important to know their credentials, and be clear on the project details and payment information. Here are three things you should ask every plumber:
• Are you licensed? Some plumbers operate without a license, however, a license is needed for any construction work that requires installing fixtures for water distribution. Working with a licensed plumber affords you the peace of mind that they’re registered with a governing body at the state or local level.
• What’s the total cost? Most plumbers will need to see the site to determine the scope of work before they can provide a quote. Once they’ve had a chance to visit your home, they’ll provide you with a cost; be sure to ask if the price includes any materials needed, labor and contingency for any unforeseen issues. Be sure you’re also aware of the payment structure that they follow.
• What will you do if something breaks? Most contractors offer a guarantee or warranty, usually within a year’s time. Prior to signing a contract, ensure that your guarantee or warranty is listed in writing.
Caring for Plants Damaged by the Freeze
Lawns and landscaping suffered during the winter storm, with the frozen ground preventing water from seeping through to plant roots. To help your plants recover from the cold snap, be sure to:
• Water all your plants once all the snow has melted, especially those that appear to be damaged from the cold.
• Hold off pruning and fertilizing. The dead foliage will act as an insulator, so wait to prune until the weather warms and plants have sprouted new growth; this will also help you to identify what is actually damaged.
• Replace patches that do not recover with sod or plugs. Most lawns go dormant during the winter, however, turfgrass can be damaged during a hard freeze. Wilted grass that turns white or brown could be dead.
Prepare for Next Time
If you’ve vowed to never be without power again (hurricane season is just a few months away, after all), it might be time to purchase a generator. If you have the funds available, opt for a standby unit that can produce up to 20,000 watts. This unit is permanently installed next to your home and kicks in automatically during an outage so that you have uninterrupted current. However, a unit like this runs between $2,000-$6,000 dollars excluding the installation.
A large inverter generator and a portable generator are both capable of producing up to 7,500 watts of power — enough to keep your refrigerator, lights and other essentials running on gasoline. The inverter is quiet, fuel-efficient and costs between $1,400-$4,000, while the portable generator costs between $700-$2,800, though it’s noisier and consumes more gas.
A mid-sized inverter is another option, producing up to 3,500 watts of electricity — enough to keep lights and the refrigerator running for up to 18 hours using two to three gallons of gas. A generator this size is priced between $1,000-$1,700.
To help you determine what generator is best suited to your needs and how many devices each generator can handle, reference this helpful graphic put together by Consumer Reports.