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Drip vs no-drip faucets in freeze: What the City of Houston, Harris County say

Temperatures are expected to dip below freezing late Thursday and stay there for more than 24 hours.

HOUSTON — As a hard freeze approaches, the thing on most people's minds is pipes.

The big question though -- to drip or not to drip.

Well, the answer is actually quite complicated and really depends on where you live. The City of Houston and Harris County have completely opposite recommendations on what to do with your faucets. 

"Keep all of your faucets trickling overnight, those nights that were going to hit the coldest point," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. "So that's Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night."

"If everybody is dripping, I mean have water dripping from your faucets, the water pressure can fall and then take for example if there is a major fire, it's going to make it difficult on our firefighters," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. 

Turner and Hidalgo have both emphasized that the freeze should not be a repeat of February 2021. They added that the power grid should be able to handle the cold, but they are taking precautions.

TIMELINE: When the arctic blast will arrive and how long it'll last

One question KHOU 11 viewers have asked is if you drain your pipes Thursday night, is it OK to turn them back on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to cook?

“I will tell you I'm personally going to drain the pipes in my house overnight, turn the valve off, drain the pipes, go to bed, get up in the morning, turn it on,” Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock said.

The city said residents should also consider draining their pipes and turning off their water if they're leaving town for the holiday.

Another viewer asked if it is safe to turn the oven on and leave the door open for five minutes to warm up the apartment.

“Don't turn on your gas stove, your oven. Anything like that, because those create toxic fumes, carbon monoxide, and what that carbon monoxide is…It's a silent killer,” she said.

The good news is with a dry forecast there should not be problems with icy roads in the region. However, the city and county said they're ready to treat roads if that changes, and the Texas Department of Transportation is monitoring other parts of the state for anyone taking a Christmas road trip.

Warming centers

There are going to be several warming centers open to anyone who needs help. Those warming centers can hold between 100 to 150 people each and will be open to anyone. 

Here's a list of those warming centers.

Meanwhile, a Houston Public Works spokesperson said most of the work preparing the city’s streets, water and wastewater facilities for the freeze was done on Monday. Tuesday, they shared photos of employees wrapping exposed pipes, stocking up on fuel and testing generators.

Public works plans to have technicians on call to help turn off a customer’s water at the meter if their pipes burst.

"If you’re leaving town, turn off the water and drain your pipes,” said Hidalgo. “That means locating your main shutoff valve. It’s usually a black box near the curb outside and turn the valve to shut off the water. Then you need to drain the water by turning on the faucets.”

Hidalgo said county leaders have spoken with CenterPoint Energy and Ship Channel officials and don’t expect any issues.

There’s also been outreach to people in encampments to get them to warmer places.

The county judge said on Thursday, a team will be in the county’s Emergency Operations Center as a precaution.

You can watch the full news conference in the YouTube video below. 

Watching the Texas power grid

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the Texas power grid, as this freeze may be its first big test since the winter storm of 2021. The CEO of ERCOT is confident that the grid will keep the power.  Here's Jeremy Rogalski's report on the readiness of the grid.  

Reporter Adam Bennett is covering preps for the storm today.  Watch for his reports on KHOU 11 News.

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