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

Time again to protect plants, pipes, and pets like one pictured above
Bri Kirkham
Texas Public Radio
Time again to protect plants, pipes and pets, like one pictured above

You can read this story in Spanish by clicking here.

Container plants are popular in San Antonio on the River Walk, around downtown, and on porches and patios across the city. The National Weather Service reports a winter blast coming this week could kill a lot of them if precautions are not taken.

An arctic cold front will produce back-to-back hard freezes Thursday night into Friday morning, and again on Friday night into Saturday morning. The lowest of lows around 20 degrees Fahrenheit will come just before sunrise both mornings.  Even colder temperatures are expected across the Hill Country.


Texas Agrilife Extension Service Agent David Rodriguez said tropical plants in containers need to be moved indoors.  But what about container plants too large to move?

"If we're unable move the container, then maybe a thin layer of a good double shredded organic mulch on the top will help insulate that crown a little bit and root system some after you water it real well," he said.

Rodriguez also strongly suggests unmovable outdoor container plants be wrapped with blankets or more professional insulators found at home and garden stores.  Some stores still have some in stock from the last hard freeze a couple of weeks ago.


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 that low and of that duration are not expected this week.

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

  • Cold winds can speed up the freezing process. Seal up openings where cold air can reach unprotected water pipes, like faucets.
  • Foam or fiberglass insulation sleeves go a long way in keeping exposed pipes safe.
  • Leave cabinet doors open under the kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warmer room air to circulate over the pipes.
  • If there are rooms without heating ducts, leave doors open to allow ambient heat in. Especially if the room is on the north side of the house.
  • Letting faucets drip slowly to keep water flowing through pipes is not ideal, but it can help.

Weather will not be cold enough to freeze pipes underground, but during prolonged freezing weather, SAWS frequently receives calls from customers thinking there is a water outage. The usual issue is there is a frozen pipe in their home. If you discover your house without water during the cold weather, here are some questions to help determine if the problem is in your home:

  • Check multiple faucets around the home. Are they all off or is it just one?
  • Check with your neighbors to see if they have water service.
  • Is your home heated? Were you away from home during the freeze?
  • Did you leave your faucets dripping? Cover your outdoor faucets?

And even once warmer weather has returned, it’s important to check plumbing in areas that might have frozen. Broken or cracked pipes can produce lasting, and expensive, water damage.


For pets, let them come in the house during cold spells.   The City of San Antonio's Animal Care Services also offers these tips to TPR followers:

  • Purchase an insulated doghouse or build a protective enclosure that shields your pet from the elements and gives them a safe, warm place to rest. 
  • Certain pets are more vulnerable to cold temperatures than others. Shorthaired dogs, very young or old dogs, and all cats should not be left outside during the winter months. Shorthaired dogs may benefit from a sweater while outside.
  • Pets who spend much of their day outdoors will need some extra food throughout the winter months. That’s because they use up more energy trying to stay warm. A few extra kibbles probably won’t hurt but make sure your pet is getting daily exercise if they’re prone to weight gain.
  • Always provide fresh, clean water regardless of the season. Check water daily and clean bowls regularly to prevent algae growth.
  • Be mindful of your pets while winterizing your car. Antifreeze is deadly to pets who are attracted to its sweet taste. Store all chemicals out of reach especially if you’re going to bring your pets into the garage on cold nights.
  • Regardless of whether you’re a pet parent or not, everyone should take caution before warming up the car, bang on the hood a time or two. A warm engine can be a welcome spot for a cold cat and the noise should scare them away before you start 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 an online report at saacs.info/311

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