Weather

Houston Christmas forecast: Frigid temperatures as thousands cope with power outages

Temperatures in the Houston region are expected to remain below freezing until Saturday, with wind chill values in the teens or lower. Another freeze is in the forecast for Saturday night.

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(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
FILE: People seeking shelter from below freezing temperatures rest inside a church warming center Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston.

More than 10,000 homes in the Houston area were without electricity early Friday afternoon as the region remained in the grips of an arctic blast.

Temperatures throughout Southeast Texas dropped below freezing on Thursday and are expected to remain below 32 degrees until Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service’s Houston-Galveston office. Meteorologist Jimmy Fowler said wind gusts between 20-30 mph are making it feel even colder, with wind chill values in the teens or lower expected through Saturday, which is Christmas Eve.

Fowler said wind chill values were around zero, and in some cases below in the northern parts of the region, early Friday morning.

“This is where it gets pretty dangerous,” he said. “These wind chill values will not be rising above freezing until potentially briefly (Saturday) afternoon, then go right back down into the teens through Christmas morning. So this is going to be a pretty prolonged cold that Southeast Texas might be dealing with.”

As of Friday afternoon, the Houston region had not experienced sustained, widespread power outages like the ones associated with the winter storm in February 2021, which brought large amounts of snow and ice. This week’s arctic front has not produced any precipitation and is not expected to during the coming days, according to the National Weather Service, meaning roadways should remain dry.

CenterPoint Energy said in a 4 p.m. email that it had been made aware of a text message going out to Houston-area customers, claiming to be from the electricity provider, saying rotating power outages were to take place Friday night and asking recipients to click on a link in the text for more information.

“This message is fraudulent and customers should not click on this malicious link,” CenterPoint said. “CenterPoint Energy continues to work closely with ERCOT and monitor grid conditions, and will continue to provide updates through our official social media channels and website.”

About 7,400 customers within Houston and 11,000 around the region were without electricity as of 1 p.m. Friday, according to the online outage tracker operated by CenterPoint Energy. Per the tracker, more than 225,000 customers had lost power and had it restored during the previous 24 hours.

An ongoing power outage at the Memorial Heights at Washington apartments, 201 S. Heights Blvd., is not weather-related, according to CenterPoint, which said in an email Friday that two utility poles were struck by a vehicle Thursday night near the intersection of Washington Avenue and Studemont Street. A spokesperson for METRO confirmed that one of its buses was the vehicle involved, adding that no injuries were reported in the crash.

“Crews have been on site since the outage was reported early (Friday) morning replacing damaged equipment in order to safely restore service as quickly as possible,” CenterPoint said.

With a high temperature around 30 expected Friday and nighttime low of 21, Fowler of the National Weather Service encouraged residents without power to stay near the middle of a room as opposed to an exterior wall or take advantage of one of the many warming centers and shelters that are open across the Houston area. Because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, he also said Houstonians should not operate generators indoors or run vehicles in a closed garage in an attempt to stay warm.

A hard freeze warning is in effect until noon Saturday. The projected high temperature for Saturday is 39, with a low of 25 at night.

Much the same will happen Sunday, when there is an expected high of 44 degrees during the day and a low of 29 at night. The freezing-weather snap is expected to end Monday, when the forecasted low is 36.

“If you have power and everything like that, make sure you stay inside,” Fowler said. “If you do go outside, bundle up — layers, layers, layers. Also make sure that you're not leaving any pets outside for an extended period of time. Make sure they're inside, warm and well-fed.”

The city's five warming centers opened Thursday night for residents like Archie Maywall, who need a place to stay warm. He came to the Acres Homes Multi-Service Center because he says he didn't have a place to go and he's grateful for the center being open.

"I appreciate it, I really do,” he said. “Getting out of that wind and cold, it's hard out there."

The city's five warming centers will be open through noon Saturday. The centers are supplying residents with a bite to eat, blankets, chairs and more to help get them through the freeze. The Acres Homes Multi-Service Center was one place residents could go and according to the city, as of Friday morning, 41 Houstonians checked in at the center.

Among them was Arnez Henderson. He said he was trying to get back to Bryan, northwest of Houston, but came to the center instead.

"It was pretty good, came in and got a nice hot meal, blanket, somewhere to lay your head and get out the cold," he said.

Ashley Brown contributed to this report.

Adam Zuvanich

Adam Zuvanich

Digital Content Producer

Adam Zuvanich writes locally relevant digital news stories for Houston Public Media. He grew up in the Houston area and earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas before working as a sportswriter in Austin, Lubbock, Odessa, St. Louis and San Antonio. Zuvanich returned home to Houston and made...

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