Galveston County residents tend to pride themselves on being weather-wise people. Those who’ve been here for more than a few months have lived through enough extreme weather to make that a valid claim.
We’ve dealt with extremely high wind and extremely high water caused by storm surge and torrential rain. We have some idea what to expect, and many of us are as prepared for that kind of severe weather as people can be. The prudent just get out of the way until it’s over.
This time, we face a kind of inclement weather with which long-timers here have little experience and which hardly anything is designed to accommodate.
It’s a good time to revisit how to manage the real winter weather our neighbors to the north — not in Dallas or Dalhart, but on the other side of the Mason-Dixon — deal with every year.
National Weather Service forecasters warn it’s going to be extremely cold starting late Sunday and stay below freezing perhaps for many hours.
The initial cold front is likely to bring snow or, most likely sleet and freezing rain. It might be cold enough for ice to stick on roads, especially bridges, sidewalks and outside stairways.
There are all sorts of ways people can get hurt during weather like that. Just walking to your car can be hazard, much less trying to drive anywhere. So it’s a good time to be extremely careful and stick as close to home as possible. If roads are icy and you can stay home, it’s best to do so.
Supporting evidence for that argument can be found on page A8 of Friday’s edition in an article reporting a 130-car crash in Fort Worth that killed six people.
Probably all our homes need some attention before the temperature drops below freezing. That’s especially true in Galveston, Bolivar Peninsula and elsewhere along the beaches and bays.
Our traditional architecture evolved to deal with heat and high water, not extremely cold air. Pipes in houses built off the ground on piers are more likely to freeze than those in houses sitting on concrete slabs. Even slab-built houses have weak spots such as outdoor spigots that need to be protected with insulation.
The Insurance Council of Texas offers some good tips about how to do that.
People also harm themselves and damage their property just trying to stay warm. That’s another special problem with traditional coastal architecture, which is designed to keep cool and hard to keep warm.
Unfortunately, it seems inevitable when the temperature falls, our emergency radio scanners light up with calls about house fires all over the county. Those fires are most often caused by space heaters set up too near something flammable.
People sometime accidentally kill themselves with trying to keep warm by using open-flame heaters that produce carbon monoxide in poorly ventilated spaces.
Nobody wants to be cold, and the cold itself can be dangerous, but please be careful about how you try to heat your home. Don’t use heaters that are designed to be used only outdoors.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has good advice about staying safe in the cold.
The cold is a threat to animals, too. You should take your own outdoor pets inside or at least ensure they have warm shelter out of the wind and rain.
Please don’t leave dogs tied up and exposed to the wet and cold.
You can help neighborhood strays by setting up simple shelters insulated even just with old newspapers and putting out extra food.
This cold snap also is a good time to check in on senior relatives and neighbors to ensure they’re keeping warm, not using the stove top and oven to heat the house and have enough of what they need to get through it.
It’s mainly a good time to hunker down, light the fireplace if yours is in good working order, and maybe make some chili and cornbread or a nice stew.
• Michael A. Smith