COLLEGE STATION, Texas – With temperatures across Texas dropping, Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts are reminding the state’s residents they have access to free AgriLife Extension publications to help keep them safe from Old Man Winter.
The experts said severe winter weather can threaten individual safety, as well as the safety of families and
property. Blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain, ice and freezing temperatures can directly or indirectly cause serious injury or death from hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, vehicle accidents and more.
“We’ve already had some cold snaps in different parts of the state, but it seems like now the weather is becoming more pervasively cold and enduring throughout Texas,” said Dr. Andy Vestal, AgriLife Extension specialist and director of homeland security and emergency management programs, located in College Station.
Vestal said the precipitation also expected in many parts of the state will add to the danger of colder temperatures by making roads icy and difficult to navigate, and power outages associated with the weather will cause further complications.
“Many previously unaffected areas of the state are now preparing for the possibility of ice and snow,” he said. “Although we had an unseasonably warm December in many regions, it looks like winter is really here now and will be making up for lost time.”
Vestal said AgriLife Extension has several free publications to help Texas residents deal with dropping temperatures, including materials to help them become more “winter aware” and providing tips on how to keep their families and their property safe this season.
Some helpful AgriLife Extension publications can be found on the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network website, http://texashelp.tamu.edu, he said. The following publications can be found in the Winter Storms listing under the Disaster Information tab:
• Preparing for Winter Storms Fact Sheet
• Don’t Get Caught Out in the Cold: Winter Weather Awareness and Safety Tips
• Winter Storms: Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
• Winter Storms: Safety Tips for Heating your Home.
Vestal added that other publications on winter storm preparation and safety from additional sources may be found on the site as well.
Janie Harris, AgriLife Extension housing and environmental specialist, added that winter is a time when Texas residents should be particularly concerned about the possible presence of carbon monoxide in their homes.
“Fireplaces and fuel-burning appliances use gas, oil or wood to produce heat,” Harris said, “And if they are not working properly or if there isn’t proper ventilation, this can produce carbon monoxide, which can harm you and your family.”
Harris said while the very young and very old, as well as those with asthma or other lung or heart problems, are most likely to be affected by low levels of carbon monoxide, higher levels can affect healthy people.
She said headache, nausea, trouble breathing, dizziness, sleepiness, general weakness, confusion and even vomiting may be signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Many of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu, so some people may not even be aware they are breathing it in,” Harris said. “But even low levels can harm your brain, heart, lungs and other organs, and higher levels can cause loss of consciousness, coma and possibly death.”
Harris said a good carbon monoxide alarm will make a loud noise when levels become too high, but should not be used as a substitute for proper care of furnaces.