It’s true that fall and winter generally remain pretty mild in the Texas Hill Country. As a matter of fact, according to the Hill Country Master Gardener’s website, the average high around the area in November remains at a balmy 67 degrees and the average low drops to a very bearable 43 degrees. December doesn’t seem too bad either with an average high of 60 degrees and an average low of 35 degrees.
One of the things about the weather in the Texas Hill Country is how rapidly it can change. We know winter is on its way, but somehow a number of us get caught off guard every year. That’s why we like to have a gentle reminder every year about how important it is to be prepared ahead of time—while everything is still comfortable.
That can lull area homeowners into a sense of false security when it comes to taking care of their homes. But by the time January rolls around the average high is only around 58 degrees and the average low dips to 32. Keep in mind those are average temperatures. If the lows take a turn for the worse, you can be looking at cold that can do some damage.
You may not know it, but the earliest recorded freeze on record for Boerne, Texas came in 1952 on October 8th. That took a lot of people by surprise! The average first freeze for our area is November 11, so you’ll want to think about winterizing your home now.
What can you do to be prepared?
- Hoses and Sprinkler Systems: A common problem many homeowners run into is frozen garden hoses. Your hose may hold up to a freeze, but the connection to your house can cause serious damage. Make sure all your hoses are disconnected for the winter. If you want extra protection you may want to put covers on your hose bibs. You can easily find those at your local hardware store. Think about the items you’ll need while they’re still available. If you wait until a hard freeze you’ll have to fight the crowds to get what you want, so get your supplies now to be sure you have them.
- Above Ground Backflow Preventers: Many of us in the Texas Hill Country have above-ground backflow preventers for our sprinkler systems. These brass devices can freeze, crack, and require replacement if they are left uncovered in freezing weather. Covering and insulating them now can save you more than $300 if you have to replace them in the spring. That’s why it’s important to properly insulate your exposed pipes or drain your sprinkler system completely if you won’t be using it this winter. Many of the houses that we have built include a hose bib shut off on the inside of the house. If you have one of these, put a reminder on your calendar to close the valve and drain the hose bibs before the first freeze—if you haven’t already done so.
- Plants and Vegetation: Most native plants and shrubs will weather the winter well. It’s a good idea, however, to do some deep watering of trees and shrubs (especially ones that are still getting established) before the first freeze hits. If you have tender, delicate plants that aren’t used to our winters, you may want to move them into the garage—or cover them to protect them from damage. Your local garden store can advise you if that’s necessary for your plants.Keep Supplies on Hand: The good news is that severe winter weather in Texas generally doesn’t last long. Still, the Texas Department of Public Safety recommends having about a week’s worth of non-perishable food on hand. It’s also recommended that you have about a gallon of water per day for each person on hand.
- Don’t Forget Your Pets: If you have outdoor pets it’s good to have a plan for keeping them inside in particularly poor weather. It probably won’t be a long period of time, but you don’t want to expose your pets to potentially harmful weather. A lot of pets actually do well in the laundry room because it’s warm. Plus, it’s easier to clean up if accidents happen.
- Be Prepared for Power Outages: The Hill Country may escape brutally cold weather most of the time, but we do occasionally get ice storms that can knock out power. Keep some extra batteries on hand for flashlights and other devices. You can also purchase cell phone chargers that you can charge ahead of time. That way, if you lose power, you can still recharge your phones. Also, if your home has a wood-burning fireplace, keep a supply of wood nearby. But make sure you have your fireplace and chimney checked in the fall so that you know it’s safe for a fire.
- Know When NOT to Drive: If you’re not used to driving in bad conditions, stay home! The Texas Department of Transportation posts recommendations and road conditions at txdot.com and if they say “don’t drive,” then stay home unless it’s truly an emergency.
Adapted and expanded from the original November 10, 2016, post.