Houstonians fill up on tenting gear as one other laborious freeze looms

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Jesse Savala found exactly what he was looking for during a visit to the Academy Sports and Outdoors in Meyerland Tuesday morning: a propane hose assembly to connect his propane tank to his Mr. Buddy heater in case he loses power later in the freezing weather expected later this week .

It was the last on the shelf but not the last on his shopping list, he added. He’d just gotten in from Lowe’s, he explained, where he was hoping to get some sort of pipe insulation, but they’re completely sold out. With an Arctic cold front approaching — and memories of Winter Storm Uri in February 2021 still vivid — many Houstonians had the same idea.

For his part, Savala had no bad experiences during Uri. He only lost power at his home in Porter, a small community in Montgomery County, for about six hours, he said. He bought the Mr. Buddy heater several years ago to heat the 30 foot trailer he uses during game season. Still, given the prediction, he was determined to be prepared.

“Yes, I’m worried,” said Savala, 70. “I have two daughters, that’s two houses that I have to wrap the pipes in. I have to take care of them.”

TIED TOGETHER: Freeze to arrive in Houston Thursday, prep recommended

Hard freezes are expected to hit Houston on Thursday night, pushing temperatures down from a daily high of maybe 60 degrees to low in the teens. Adding in the wind chill factor, meteorologists warn it could feel like 2 degrees on Friday morning.

ERCOT, the state’s nonprofit grid operator, has advised power producers to prepare for above-average demand, telling Texans not to anticipate the widespread power outages the state experienced during the deadly 2021 storm after significant generation outages.

“We continue to anticipate ample reserve supplies for the upcoming cold weather conditions,” said ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas on Tuesday.

TIED TOGETHER: ERCOT expects to avoid blackouts as Texas power grid faces its biggest cold test since the 2021 freeze

Even so, Houstonians want to be prepared, said Tyler Sumrall, senior public relations specialist at Academy Sports. While it may not be possible to unravel just how many people are shopping in preparation for the freeze this week rather than the holidays, the Katy-headquartered company’s stores in the area have seen a surge in interest in propane heaters, patio heaters, fire pits, Coolers and camps listed stoves, sleeping bags and the like.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptrend in the last week or so since the forecast was released,” Sumrall said. “So many people worry about not having enough warmth.”

Aaron Manio, 27, said his experience during the 2021 storm caused him to reconsider his living situation. He sold his house and moved into an apartment — fewer worries — and now plans to spend 2023 touring the country while working for an IT company, he said.

“The pipe burst triggered it,” he explained. “And then I’ve been working from home all year, obviously because of COVID, and dealing with contractors to make things right.”

His travels will take him to colder climates, so he bought a tent Tuesday morning to test it out with a camping trip to Brazos Bend State Park this weekend.

“I thought now would be the best time to see which of these are actually capable,” Manio said.