Houston-area officials urge preparedness, share plans for warming centers ahead of hard freeze

Five community warming centers, including the George R. Brown Convention Center, will open across Houston on Thursday afternoon.

Warming Center Graphic
City of Houston
Multiple community warming centers will operate in Houston from 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22 through noon Saturday, Dec. 24.

Houston and Harris County are partnering to operate five community warming centers from 3 p.m. Thursday until 12 p.m. Saturday as the region is expected to be hit by an arctic blast that will drop temperatures below freezing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The Acres Homes Multi-Service Center, Fonde Community Center, George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston Recovery Center and Moody Community Center will serve as warming center sites, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who said Tuesday that Lakewood Church also has pledged to serve in that capacity. Turner said pets are welcome at the city- and county-run sites, where blankets, chairs, water and snacks will be available but not hot meals or beds, emphasizing they will not be used as overnight shelters.

Residents also can use METRO buses to seek shelter from the cold, according to Turner, who said the regional transit authority will remain in operation and roadways should not be impacted because no precipitation is in the weather forecast. He also said CenterPoint Energy has pledged to suspend all electricity cutoffs between Thursday and early next week.

“The goal is we don’t want anybody to die because of the cold, because of the hard freeze that will be taking place,” Turner said. “We are concerned with those who are living on our streets, our seniors, people with disabilities, children, those are the populations we are concerned about. Let me ask everyone to help us to make sure we attend to the needs of those groups.”

Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, in a joint news conference Tuesday afternoon, also asked residents to take necessary precautions ahead of the frigid weather. Freezing temperatures are expected from Thursday afternoon or evening through Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Services’ Houston-Galveston office, with lows in the teens on Thursday night.

Hidalgo said local officials have been assured by ERCOT, which operates the power grid in Texas, that the cold weather will not cause widespread power outages like it did in February 2021, when more than 100 people died across the state as snowy, icy and freezing weather persisted for the better part of a week. The period of freezing weather this week should not be as prolonged, according a National Weather Service meteorologist.

“We've spoken to ERCOT, who have assured us that the grid will have sufficient capacity to meet demand,” Hidalgo said. “According to ERCOT, we are not expecting widespread power outages.”

But the high winds expected Thursday could cause trees to fall on power lines, according to Hidalgo, who asked residents to refrain from using outdoor heating appliances or grills inside their homes, because of the danger for fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. She also urged residents to avoid running their vehicles inside garages, which also could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Houston-area residents who will be leaving town for Christmas weekend are asked to first shut off the water sources to their homes and drain their indoor faucets, to prevent water pipes from bursting. Those who are staying in the Houston area should cover their exposed outdoor pipes and leave their indoor faucets trickling, Hidalgo said, although City of Houston residents should avoid letting their faucets drip. That could cause a decrease in water pressure throughout the city’s system and potentially constrain the Houston Fire Department’s ability to use water to extinguish a fire, Turner said.

Hidalgo said residents of the region also should bring their pets and plants inside ahead of the freezing weather, or securely cover their plants if they are left outside. She also encouraged residents to wear layered clothing if they venture outside.

“We can't prevent temperatures of this nature. We can’t prevent the timing,” she said. “We can control our preparedness. We can control our ability to respond. We can ride it out and have a lovely holiday season.”