As widespread power outages and cold weather continue to impact people in North and Central Texas, health officials reminded residents to use extreme caution when bringing heat sources indoors.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, generators should only be operated outdoors, at least 10 feet away from buildings and should never be used in garages. Cars also should not be run inside, even if a garage door is open.

Vehicles, generators, gas stoves and grills are all meant for outdoor use because they produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas that can quickly poison or kill people who breathe it in.

When people breathe in carbon monoxide in a confined space, it replaces the oxygen in their blood, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning or even death, a news release said.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, nausea, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from carbon monoxide poisoning without developing symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People displaying symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning should be quickly moved outdoors and receive medical attention, according to the release.

The CDC reported that over 400 Americans die annually from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning that is not caused by fires, while over 100,000 people visit the emergency room and over 14,000 are hospitalized. Infants, elderly people and those with chronic heart disease, anemia or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in multiple locations throughout a home, especially where people will hear them when sleeping, according to the CDC. Battery-powered or battery-backup detectors are best, because they will still work in a power outage.

In order to keep your home warm during a power outage or cold conditions, the DSHS recommends Texans:
  • Close their blinds and curtains to keep heat inside;
  • Shut doors to unused rooms to avoid wasting heat;
  • Stuff towels in the cracks under doors;
  • Eat and drink to keep their bodies warm; and
  • Wear multiple layers of warm, loose clothing.
Texans should also be careful when using space heaters indoors, according to the Austin Fire Department. People should always keep a close eye on space heaters, place them far away from flammable objects and never leave them unattended overnight, AFD Division Chief Thayer Smith told Community Impact on Jan. 31.

As of 5 p.m. Feb. 2, over 147,000 Austin Energy customers were without power, alongside over 126,000 Oncor customers in Dallas-Fort Worth and 134 CPS Energy customers in San Antonio.

At a 9 a.m. news conference, Austin Energy officials said power would be restored for all customers by the evening of Feb. 3. However, the utility company shared on Twitter around 2 p.m. that it could no longer provide an estimate for systemwide power restoration times, due to the “unique challenges” of each outage.

Oncor shared in a Feb. 2 news release that crews would "continue to work night and day" to restore power in all its service regions. According to a message on Oncor's power outage map, over 1,000 utility workers from other parts of Texas and neighboring states have joined Oncor to help assess damage and complete repairs. Oncor has not shared a systemwide restoration estimate, but many outages on its map have been assigned individual restoration times.

Texans who need to relocate due to power outages and the cold weather can find information about warming centers in their area and other storm resources through the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s website.