At a Feb. 18 press conference, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the situation was improving but that the county still is not in the clear. The power grid remains fragile, she said, and temperatures will once again drop below freezing overnight.
"As soon as you can, please take a moment to turn off the lights that you don't need, to turn down the temperature to 68 degrees—or lower, if you can stand it," Hidalgo. "For the next couple of days, we need help conserving energy so that we can have this renewed electricity consistently."
Additionally, Hidalgo asked residents to conserve water. Although temperatures will remain low for another night, Hidalgo asked residents to not drip pipes, which she said will extend the length of time the region goes with low water pressure.
Instead, to keep pipes from freezing, she said, people should shut off the main water lines to their homes and drain their pipes.
Boil-water notices remain in effect in most of Harris County and area cities, including Houston. Even after water pressure is restored, Hidalgo said it takes an additional 24 hours to ensure water is safe enough to drink.
Hidalgo said the county is in support of the state's request for a major disaster declaration made earlier Feb. 18, which she said would bring significant aid to the community. With power coming back online and warmer weather around the corner, she said the county is now bringing together community groups and nonprofits to identify needs.
Residents whose homes sustained damage are advised to reach out to insurance companies as soon as they are able. Residents who do not have insurance can call 211 to learn about available resources, Hidalgo said, though she warned that resources are limited.
"[Local resources] cannot meet the need of this community once we continue to get through the crisis phase and into the recovery phase," she said. "That's why we are asking for federal aid."
Hidalgo asked residents to document damage and submit it to www.readyharris.org, which she said will help the county show evidence of the effects the disaster had on the community and bolster the chances of getting federal aid.
"[This storm is] unlike a hurricane, where we can do what we call a 'windshield assessment'—we can drive, and we can see how much debris is out on the street [and] watch, from the street, the water lines," she said. "This crisis had most of its damage within the homes, and so we rely on you, the residents, to report the damage you have so we can pass that on ... and make the case for why we need federal assistance."
County buildings will remain closed Feb. 19 because of low water pressure and low fire suppression, Hidalgo said.