With sub-freezing temperatures projected to hit Central Texas over the coming week, Austin and Travis County leaders are once again highlighting local governments' readiness for the weather and urging residents to take on their own winter preparedness measures.

“There is no longer a question of if we have extreme weather in Central Texas, but when, and being ready to withstand multiple days of severe weather should become part of our regular winter preparations," said Ken Snipes, Austin's homeland security and emergency management director, in a statement.

The big picture

Beginning Jan. 18, the Austin area is expected to experience an arctic cold front with temperatures dipping well below freezing.

Officials say they don't expect the winter weather to bring impacts as significant as Winter Storm Uri's statewide blackouts or the local power outages and safety issues caused by heavy icing amid Winter Storm Mara last year. But, they still called on Austinites to plan for possible emergencies and stay tuned for updates over the coming days.

“This is the type of cold snap that could be dangerous for long exposures to what we refer to as the 4 P’s: to people, pipes, pets and plants," Mayor Kirk Watson said Jan. 11. "What were asking folks is to please make sure that you have what you need to be prepared during this very cold time—and that includes what you may need to be prepared for any power outages that might occur."

Officials said residents should sign up for local emergency alerts through the Warn Central Texas website. Austinites can also keep up to date on the city's alerts webpage with information available in multiple languages.The outlook

Leaders with Austin and Travis County's emergency management offices, public utilities, and public safety and transportation departments all stressed that they believe staff are trained and set up to respond in the event of power outages or other dangerous situations that may arise when temperatures fall.

Austin police, fire and emergency medical services representatives all said their departments are readying for next week, and that city 911 services should be set to handle any potential increase in call volume.

While heavy precipitation isn't expected next week, meaning heavier icing or snowfall are unlikely, officials also said residents should use caution if going outside for extended periods of time or when driving around.

“If you’re wondering if you should be on the roads when i’s below 32 [degrees] ... maybe think twice about going out on the roads when you have these freezing temperatures," County Judge Andy Brown said. "If you do have to go out on the roads, drive more slowly than regular. I know our first responders, emergency services folks would really appreciate that, especially if things do get moist.”

After Austin Energy was at the center of public frustrations during and after last winter's widespread outages, General Manager Bob Kahn said he believes the power utility is on solid footing heading into next week. However, with other parts of Texas also in line for frigid temperatures and the state's power grid manager issuing a weather watch for next week, he noted conditions could change.

“Right now we feel pretty comfortable. [The Electric Reliability Council of Texas] is saying that they have enough generation to meet the demand, and we’ll just have to see what happens," Kahn said.

Austin Water Director Shay Ralls Roalson also said the water utility is ready for the cold, and that residents should take on winterization measures in their homes to avoid costly and dangerous pipe breaks.

Staying prepared

In addition to signing up for emergency alerts, Austinites can also learn more about winter preparations from various city resources available online.

Officials also detailed plans to maintain key resources for more vulnerable residents during the cold snap. Warming centers and other public facilities will be available, with free public transportation via Capital Metro buses for those seeking out heat.

Austin Public Library branches and city recreation centers will serve as warming centers for anyone in need during regular operating hours. Additionally, three APL branches—Little Walnut Creek, Terrazas and Ruiz—will be open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Jan. 14 and 15.

Homeless Strategy Officer David Gray confirmed that Austin's overnight cold weather shelters will also be activated nightly to start next week, beginning Jan. 14. Shelters will be accessible from the One Texas Center at 505 Barton Springs Road, and more information is available at 512-972-5055.