A cold front is expected to move through Texas on Dec. 22, with temperatures falling to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below in large portions of the state. At a Dec. 21 news conference, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke about the state’s plans to keep Texans safe during the winter weather.

Abbott was joined by Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management chief; Public Utility Commission Chair Peter Lake; and Pablo Vegas, Electric Reliability Council of Texas CEO.

Precipitation is not expected in the state’s major metropolitan areas, officials said. Road conditions and other travel should not be impacted by the cold weather. Texans can visit www.drivetexas.org for real-time road conditions.

Officials emphasized that Texans should not expect a repeat of February 2021.

“The grid is ready and reliable,” Lake said. “We expect to have sufficient generation to meet demand throughout this entire winter weather event.”

Demand for energy is expected to reach its peak on the morning of Dec. 23, with an estimated 70,000 megawatts in use. At least 85,000 megawatts of power will be available throughout the weekend, Vegas said.

All power generation facilities linked to the state grid have been weatherized. This allows power plants and generators to continue to provide service during extremely hot and cold weather and may include measures, such as insulation, coverings and heat tracing for pipes. On Nov. 29, Lake and Vegas shared an update on the status of ongoing reforms to the power grid, amid continued distrust and criticism from Texans nearly two years after Winter Storm Uri.

“Trust has to be earned, and we've earned that trust in part by going through this past summer, with 11 new all-time records for power demand and being able to meet that power demand with ease,” Abbott said in regard to the grid. “I think trust will be earned over the next few days as people see that [in] ultra-cold temperatures, the grid is going to be able to perform [well].”

Lake reminded Texans that high winds over the weekend may knock down branches, resulting in downed power lines and outages. Residents can contact their local power providers in the event of local outages.

Vegas said customers will not have to worry about high energy prices, which many Texans dealt with in the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri.

“We've already been working with the generators, who are working in turn with their suppliers, to ensure that the commitments for generation are being made in advance ... of any changes to the [energy] price forecasts,” Vegas said.

Warming centers will be open across the state to help unhoused Texans, Kidd said. A map of warming centers can be found at www.tdem.texas.gov/warm, and residents can also contact their local governments.

Kidd said the most important things to protect during cold weather are people, pets, pipes and plants. He reminded Texans to bring their pets inside and insulate pipes around their homes.

The Texas Department of Insurance also recommends draining sprinkler systems and turning off outdoor water sources. Texans should also find their main water shutoff valve in case their pipes freeze. Burst pipes will likely leak if the water is not turned off, according to the TDI.

According to Austin Water, households should have available at least one gallon of water per day for each household member. Other emergency supplies include a battery-powered radio and flashlight in case of a power outage.

“I want to send an extreme amount of gratitude out for our first responders, our 911 call-takers, our utility workers—all of the men and women from Texas that are going to be out there on the roads,” Kidd said. “[They are] not only working through this winter storm, but working through the holidays away from their families, and we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Driving safely during the holidays

The Texas Highway Patrol will increase enforcement from Dec. 23-Jan. 2 in an attempt to catch impaired and unsafe drivers. In a news release, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported that during the same period in 2021, officers issued over 91,000 traffic citations and warnings.

“Whether you’re staying local to end the year or traveling, we encourage everyone to make safety their No. 1 priority by following a few tips that will help make our roads and celebrations safer for everyone,” DPS Director Steve McCraw said in the release.

During the holiday season and everyday, state agencies encourage drivers to:
  • find another ride if consuming alcohol;
  • ensure the driver and all passengers are wearing seatbelts;
  • drive with caution in bad weather, heavy traffic, unfamiliar areas and construction zones;
  • eliminate all distractions, including phones and other screens;
  • move over and slow down for other motorists stopped on the side of the road as well as emergency vehicles and tow trucks;
  • and report road hazards or suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
Traffic may be heavier during the holidays, so the DPS reminds drivers to leave early to allow themselves plenty of time to reach their destination.

The TDI also recommends winterizing cars. This includes checking batteries, antifreeze, windshield wipers, headlights, hazard lights, heaters and defrosters, brakes, tire pressure, and tire tread.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, over 48,600 traffic crashes occurred in Texas between Dec. 1, 2021-Jan. 1, 2022, including 433 deaths. One-fourth of these deaths involved drunk drivers, TxDOT reported.

“With everything going on in the world these past few years, we want everyone to be able to celebrate this joyous time of year without the tragic consequences of drinking and driving,” TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams said in a news release. “Get together with family and friends, and have a great time, but please find an alternative way home if you choose to drink.”