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Emergency Management and Environmental Health & Safety

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Severe Winter Weather

Winter Storm & Extreme Cold Awareness:

Eastern North Carolina has had its share of Winter Storms over the past few years and most people are aware of the dangers involved with winter weather.  One of the primary concerns is the winter weather's ability to knock out heat, power and communications services to your home or office, sometimes for days at a time along with the general transportation disruptions and damage from falling trees.

In order to prepare for winter weather, the following items should be reviewed:

Ensure that your family disaster plan includes alternate heating sources for when power gets knocked out.

Ensure that your family disaster kit includes food and water for extended periods without power.  Include adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.

Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).  Be alert to changing weather conditions.

Stay indoors during the storm.

Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather.  Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

 

Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify winter weather:

Freezing Rain: rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, and power lines.

Sleet: rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes roads to freeze and become slippery.

Winter Weather Outlook: issued prior to a watch; given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible.  Usually issued 3 -5 days in advance.

Winter Weather Advisory: issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.

Winter Storm Watch: alerts to the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet.  Usually issued 12 - 48 hours before the beginning of a winter storm.  Tune into NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.

Winter Storm Warning: issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring.  Usually the warning is issued 12 - 24 hours before the event is expected to begin. 

Blizzard Warning: issued for sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 miles per hour or greater, considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer. 

Frost/Freeze Warning: below freezing temperatures are expected.

Wind Chill Warning: issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

Wind Chill Advisory: issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure.

 

At Home:

Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the warm air inside.

If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags.  Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold.

Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes.  Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.

Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal.  Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.

Never use a gas or charcoal grill indoors for a heating source or for a cooking appliance - the fumes are harmful and lethal!

Never use generators indoors.

Have a Carbon Monoxide detector in the home to check for dangerous levels!

If you lose power use flashlights to light the home instead of candles which pose a significant fire hazard.

 

Out of Doors:

If you have a car, fill the gas tank in case you have to leave.

Drive only if it is absolutely necessary.  If you must drive: travel in the day; don't travel alone; keep other informed of your schedule; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.

Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive.  If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

If you have to go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. 

Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.

Wear a hat.

Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from the extreme cold.  

Keep dry.  Change wet clothing frequently to prevent loss of body heat.

Walk carefully on snowy, icy walkways.

Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

Avoid overexerting yourself while shoveling. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack. 

 

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