Aluminum air pipes

It’s time to protect your plants, pipes and pets, San Antonio

Container plants are popular in San Antonio on the River Walk, around downtown, and on porches and patios around town. The National Weather Service reports that a winter blast coming this week could kill many if precautions aren’t taken.

An arctic cold front will produce consecutive hard frosts from Thursday evening to Friday morning, and again from Friday evening to Saturday morning. The lowest of the lows around 20 degrees Fahrenheit will come just before sunrise on both mornings. Even colder temperatures are expected in the Hill Country.

Plants

Texas Agrilife extension service agent David Rodriguez said tropical plants in containers should be moved indoors. But what about container plants that are too big to move?

“If we can’t move the container, then maybe a thin layer of a good double shredded organic mulch on top will help insulate that crown and root system a bit after you’ve watered it really well,” did he declare.

Rodriguez also strongly suggests that non-movable outdoor container plants be wrapped in blankets or more professional insulation found at home and garden stores. Some stores still have some in stock from the last frost a few weeks ago.

Pipes

Pipes are a bit harder to freeze, according to several plumbing experts we checked with. It takes about six hours at temperatures around 20 degrees to freeze a well-insulated pipe. Temperatures this low and of this duration are not expected this week.

Still, the San Antonio Water System reports that it’s good to be prepared. After all, there are still many weeks of winter left. Here are some tips from the city-owned water utility:

  • Cold winds can speed up the freezing process. Seal openings where cold air can reach unprotected water pipes, such as faucets.
  • Foam or fiberglass insulation sleeves greatly contribute to the safety of exposed pipes.
  • Leave cabinet doors open under kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warmer room air to circulate through the pipes.
  • If there are rooms without heating ducts, leave the doors open to let in ambient heat. Especially if the room is on the north side of the house.
  • Letting faucets drip slowly so water runs through the pipes isn’t ideal, but it can help.

The weather won’t be cold enough to freeze the pipes underground, but during prolonged freezing periods, SAWS frequently gets calls from customers who think there’s a water outage. The usual problem is that there is a frozen pipe in their house. If you discover your home has no water in cold weather, here are some questions to help you determine if the problem is with you:

  • Check several faucets around the house. Are they all off or is it just one?
  • Check with your neighbors if they have water service.
  • Is your accommodation heated? Were you away from home during the freeze?
  • Did you let your faucets run? Cover your outdoor taps?

And even once the warmer weather returns, it’s important to check the plumbing in areas that may have frozen. Broken or cracked pipes can cause lasting and costly water damage.

Pets

For pets, let them into the house during cold weather. The City of San Antonio Animal Care Services also offers these tips for TPR enthusiasts:

  • Buy an insulated dog house or build a protective enclosure that protects your pet from the elements and gives them a safe, warm place to rest.
  • Some pets are more vulnerable to cold temperatures than others. Short-haired dogs, very young or old dogs and all cats should not be left outside during the winter months. Short-haired dogs can benefit from a sweater outside.
  • Pets that spend much of their day outdoors will need supplemental food throughout the winter months. This is because they use more energy trying to stay warm. A few extra kibbles probably won’t hurt, but make sure your pet gets daily exercise if he’s prone to weight gain.
  • Always provide fresh, clean water regardless of the season. Check the water daily and clean the bowls regularly to prevent algae growth.
  • Pay attention to your pets when winterizing your car. Antifreeze is deadly to animals who are attracted to its sweet taste. Store all chemicals out of reach, especially if you’re going to be bringing your pets into the garage on cold nights.
  • Whether you own a pet or not, everyone should exercise caution before warming up the car, banging on the hood once or twice. A hot engine can be a welcome place for a cold cat and the noise should scare them away before starting the engine.

The city of San Antonio has laws that protect pets from neglect, including exposure to harsh weather conditions. Residents can report animal neglect by calling the City’s 3-1-1 Customer Service Line or submitting a report online at saacs.info/311