Your ultimate guide to surviving winter weather in Dallas Fort-Worth

As North Texans prepare for freezing rain and plummeting temperatures, here are some key things to know ahead of the winter storm warning.

Most of North Texas was bundled up and under a winter storm warning from Monday to Wednesday with the threat of freezing rain and plunging temperatures pushing through the region.

Impacts were already being felt Monday morning with pre-emptive flight cancellations, events being rescheduled, like Fort Worth’s popular daily cattle drive, and school closures.

With the current cold weather and icy conditions, it’s important to refresh your memory on some useful driving advice, tips on protecting yourself and your home, and other winter guidance.

What’s the difference between a winter storm advisory, watch and warning?

A winter weather advisory is the lowest level, and it is issued when wintry weather is possible but will not cause hazardous conditions. People should be careful while traveling during an advisory.

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A winter storm watch is issued when the weather service has 50% to 80% confidence that the criteria of a winter storm warning will be met. They are typically issued 36 to 48 hours before the onset of significant weather so people can prepare for snow, sleet or ice that may come from a storm.

A winter storm warning is issued when significant weather such as snow, ice, sleet or a combination of these is highly expected, according to the weather service. Travel is almost always difficult during a warning, the weather service said.

To read more about the differences in advisories, click here.

How can I check for icy road conditions and closures?

  • The Texas Department of Transportation’s DriveTexas map can be filtered to show accidents, closures and other incidents related to ice and snow across the state. You can also call the department at 800-452-9292 for information.
  • The North Texas Tollway Authority Twitter account sends out timely traffic updates regarding accidents and closures.
  • The National Weather Service in Fort Worth’s “Expected impacts and timing” page details potential road conditions over a three-day span. The Weather Service also posts regular condition updates on its Twitter.
  • Some Twitter accounts for local police and fire departments post regular traffic and accident updates, such as Dallas Fire-Rescue, the Fort Worth Fire Department and most TxDOT districts.

For more on how to check road conditions, click here.

Cars driving along Woodall Rodgers Freeway had sleet to contend with Feb. 3, 2022, in Dallas. Freezing temperatures are expected again later this week.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

I’m still planning to drive. Any best practices?

If you’re going to take to the road, it’s important to drive with caution and refresh your memory on what to do if your car slides on ice. Some other things to keep in mind include:

  • Closer to the time you’re traveling, you’ll want to monitor weather and road conditions. To do so, you can visit Drive Texas.
  • Maintain at least three times the normal following distance on ice or snow and stay at least 200 feet behind snowplows.
  • Use extra caution on bridges, ramps, overpasses, and shaded areas since they tend to freeze first.
  • Don’t panic if your vehicle starts to slide. Instead, ease off the gas or brake pedal and steer into the direction of the skid until you regain traction before straightening your vehicle.
  • If you get stuck on the road, it’s safest to stay in your car.

For more advice on how to prepare and drive in icy conditions, click here.

How do I check for power outages?

  • ERCOT: See current grid conditions with ERCOT’s dashboard.
  • Oncor: Customers in the D-FW area can search the company’s outage map here.
  • Farmers Electric Cooperative: FEC provides services to customers in Collin, Dallas and Rockwall counties. Check their outage map here.
  • United Cooperative Services: If you live in Ellis or Tarrant county and you use United Cooperative Services, check their outage map here.
  • Tri-County Cooperative: If you live in Denton or Tarrant county and you use Tri-County Cooperative, check their information about outages and map here.
  • Denton Municipal Electric: DME customers can find more information on the City of Denton website.

If I lose power, what should I do with my food?

Here are five tips to keep in mind:

  • DO NOT store your food outside. Hard stop. The USDA says that outside temperatures are inconsistent, causing chilled food to enter the “danger zone” of warmer than 40°F, allowing bacteria to grow, and frozen food could begin thawing.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Move around your food to protect it. Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination from thawing juices. Group other foods together in the fridge to create an “igloo effect,” which can help keep the food colder.
  • Make your own ice. You can make ice by filling buckets or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Use this ice to put in your freezer, refrigerator or coolers to keep food cold, according to the USDA.
  • Find ways to eat without cooking. Try to eat shelf-stable pantry goods and don’t try to cook if your power goes out. Think crackers, beans, nuts, PB&J sandwiches, and cereal with shelf-stable plant-based milk.

For more tips on what to do with your food if you lose power, click here.

I want to use my fireplace. Any tips I should keep in mind?

  • Be careful with a natural gas fire starter. Don’t use the natural gas fire starter as a source of heat without some sort of fuel. It won’t create enough heat for exhaust fumes to go out of the flute and carbon monoxide could back up into the house.
  • Don’t use more than one Duraflame-type log at a time. Most residential fireplaces are not rated to handle more than one.
  • Have your chimney checked by a professional once a year. If there is too much build-up of carbon and other debris in the chimney, it can become a fire hazard.
  • Use a fireplace screen. And make sure to keep anything that can burn at least three feet from a lit fireplace.
  • Only burn natural fireplace wood or other fuels designed for indoor fireplaces. Throwing plastics and other trash into the fireplace can put off toxic smoke.

For more tips on how to properly (and safely) use your fireplace, click here.

How do I keep my pipes from freezing?

To stave off the freeze, Dallas Water Utilities suggests the following:

  • Keep pipes insulated. Find exposed pipes in unheated parts of your home, such as outside or in the attic, and make sure they are wrapped to keep them insulated.
  • Don’t forget the outside, either. Remove garden hoses from outside faucets and insulate them with hard foam covers or cloth.
  • Cover your vents. For pier-and-beam foundations, cover vents around the foundation.
  • Educate yourself. Learn how to shut off water from your home in case of emergency.

If you have a major break in your pipes, turn off the water supply to your house as soon as possible to avoid further damage. You should also contact your insurance agent quickly because many other Texans may be filing claims in the coming days. If you live in an apartment, shutting off the main water supply may be out of your control. But be in contact with management.

For more tips on how to deal with pipes in freezing conditions, click here.

What should I do if my flight is canceled or delayed?

The winter snow storm means thousands of passengers will be navigating delayed and canceled flights. Here are some tips for flyers:

  • Should I cancel my flight? Canceling a reservation and trying to get a refund is a trickly gamble. But both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have enacted travel advisories for the winter storm that let passengers rebook tickets to a nearby date free of charge.
  • Can I get a refund? Federal law entitles passengers to a refund if a flight is canceled for any reason, even weather. But weather-related delays are not eligible for refunds. And airlines are not required to provide housing and food vouchers for weather-related events.
  • Where can I find out the rules for flying? Check out Fort Worth-based American Airlines’ contract and Dallas-based Southwest Airlines.

For more tips on how to handle delayed or canceled flights, click here.