Editor's Note: This story will be updated once more information becomes available.

After areas in Harris County were plummeted by severe weather on May 16 and thousands of residents are without power, Harris County Public Health officials are asking residents to take precautionary measures to stay healthy and avoid injury and illness.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a May 17 news conference that some residents without power could have to wait weeks for power to restore.

“The next few weeks are going to be uncomfortable,” Hidalgo said.

What residents should know

Hidalgo and officials with the city of Houston's Office of Emergency Management said a list of cooling centers around Houston will be available once they can confirm staff. So far, one cooling center has been confirmed in north Houston that is operated by American Red Cross at Green House International Church, 200 W. Greens Rd., Houston.

More information on cooling centers/shelters can be found on Houston's Office of Emergency Management website here.

Hidalgo also said 15 Harris County public libraries will be available as cooling centers.

In a release, HCPH officials recommend residents inspecting their property:

  • Protect their health during clean up.
  • Dress for safety: Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, eye/ear protection, boots and insect repellent to avoid mosquito bites.

For residents who lost power, the release recommends residents:

  • Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat.
  • Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Throw away any food that has been at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Throw away food that has been in a nonrunning refrigerator for four hours or more.
  • Thawed food that contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, can be refrozen or cooked. Refreezing these foods will be a quality (not safety) issue.
  • Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened or damaged.

For residents using a generator:

  • Never use a generator inside your home or garage, even if doors and windows are open.
  • Place generators more than 20 feet away from your home, doors and windows.
Harris County residents survey the damage after the severe weather on May 16 including down fences. (Jovanna Aguilar/Community Impact)
Harris County residents survey the damage after the severe weather on May 16 including down fences. (Jovanna Aguilar/Community Impact)

For residents with pets, the release states:
  • Do not feed spoiled food to your pets since they may get sick.
  • Pets can also suffer from excessive heat. Ensure pets have adequate drinking water and a shady resting place.

Despite the storm, hot weather continues to affect Harris County and can cause heat-related illness. Cool spaces and staying hydrated are the main defense from extreme heat, according to HCPH.

  • If air conditioning is not available, pull the shades over windows, close the blinds and use fans to cool rooms.
  • Drink a lot of water even when not thirsty.
  • Do not drink alcohol, and avoid drinks with caffeine.
  • If your heart begins to pound, if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or faint, stop all activity and seek immediate medical assistance.
  • Never leave children, older adults, or pets unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are cracked open.

What else

  • Wash hands often and thoroughly with soap and clean, warm water for 20 seconds. If not possible, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Empty any containers that may hold stagnant water to avoid mosquito breeding.
  • Pace yourself during clean up. Decide which tasks are most important so you don't become overwhelmed.
  • Check your GPS for any road closures due to fallen trees or debris due to the storm.
  • Be careful around loose or lost pets. Frightened animals are more likely to bite if approached or handled.
More information can be found on the HCPH website here.