Houstonians stock up on camping gear as another hard freeze looms


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

It was the last one on the shelf, though not the last thing on his shopping list, he added. He had just come from Lowe’s, he explained, where he was hoping to pick up some sort of pipe insulation, but they were completely sold out. With an arctic cold front approaching — and memories of February 2021’s Winter Storm Uri still quite vivid — many Houstonians had had the same idea.

Savala, for his part, didn’t have a terrible experience 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 deer season. Still, in light of the forecast, he was determined to be prepared. 

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

RELATED: Freeze to arrive in Houston Thursday, preparation advised  

The hard freeze is expected to arrive in Houston Thursday night, pushing temperatures from a daytime high of perhaps 60 degrees to the low teens. Adding in the wind chill factor, meteorologists are warning that it could feel like 2 degrees Friday morning. 

ERCOT, the state’s nonprofit grid operator, has advised power generators to prepare for higher-than-normal demand while telling Texans it doesn’t expect the widespread blackouts the state saw during the deadly 2021 storm after significant generation failures.   

“We continue to expect adequate supply with reserves for the approaching cold weather conditions,” said ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas Tuesday.

RELATED: ERCOT expects to avoid blackouts as Texas power grid to face biggest cold test since 2021 freeze

Still, Houstonians want to be prepared, Tyler Sumrall, senior public relations specialist for Academy Sports, said. While it may not be possible to disentangle how many people are shopping in preparation for the freeze this week rather than the holidays, the Katy-headquartered company’s area stores have seen a surge in interest in propane heaters, patio heaters, firepits, coolers, camp stoves, sleeping bags and the like.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in the last week or so, since the forecast came out,” Sumrall said. “So many people are worried about having adequate heat.” 

Aaron Manio, 27, said that his experience during the 2021 storm led him to rethink his living situation. He sold his house and moved into an apartment — less to worry about — and is now planning to spend 2023 traveling the country while working remotely for an IT company, he said.

“The pipes bursting set it off,” he explained. “And then for the whole year I was working from home, because, of course, COVID, and dealing with contractors to get everything fixed up.” 

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

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


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