The Lexington Division of Emergency Management, along with Kentucky Emergency Management and the National Weather Service are setting November 16 – 22 as Winter Weather Awareness Week in the Commonwealth and encourage Kentuckians to take time out to prepare for cold, winter weather.
“It’s unusual that the cold weather has come this early for this long,” said Pat Dugger, Director of the Division of Emergency Management. “With the forecast calling for some sort of rain, freezing rain or snow event next week, we want people to be aware and get prepared for the challenges that cold and snowy weather can bring.”
The leading cause of death and injuries during winter months is driving and transportation-related accidents. Before winter really gets going, have a mechanic check your car or truck for proper operation, including brakes, battery, exhaust system, windshield wipers, antifreeze and other fluid levels and, of course, tires. Remember to keep your gas tank at least half-full at all times during the winter. When driving in snowy, icy or cold, wet conditions, it’s important to leave enough space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Stopping distances can increase greatly during bad weather conditions. Put a bag of sand or kitty litter in the trunk so if you do get stuck, the materials spread on the ground can increase traction and get you back on the road.
It’s also a good time to put together a car safety kit just in case you get stranded on the road. It should have blankets or a sleeping bag, a flashlight, jumper cables, extra clothing including hats and gloves, flares or safety markers, a shovel, non-perishable food and bottled water, cell phone charger and an extra ice scraper or snow brush.
Winter weather can bring occasional power outages to homes and businesses. It’s important to check your home emergency kit for working flashlights and a battery-powered radio. Save your utility provider’s emergency phone number into your cell phone so you can call in and report the outage or download the smartphone app that allows you to report an outage via messaging service. Let faucets drip to keep pipes from freezing.
If the power is out for an extended period of time, be sure to only use safe auxiliary heating devices inside your home. Never bring a charcoal grill or other outdoor heater into a house. The toxic fumes from these devices can kill. The same advice goes for home electric generators. They should always be left outdoors and connected with heavy duty cords to the proper equipment.
The best way to stay ahead of dangerous or threatening winter weather is to have a NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio. The new models will only sound an alert for severe weather watches, warnings and advisories in one area or county. Most can operate from battery-power for days, so even if there’s a power outage, you’ll have the latest weather information at hand.
It’s important to know the difference between the types of warnings, watches and advisories that can be issued during the winter months. A winter storm watch means that significant winter weather (i.e., heavy snow, heavy sleet, significant freezing rain, or a combination of events) is expected, but not imminent, for the watch area; this typically provides 12 to 36 hours notice of the possibility of severe winter weather. A winter storm warning means that significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent, or likely, and is a threat to life and property. A blizzard warning means that winds that are at least 35 mph or greater, blowing snow that will frequently reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less for at least three hours, and dangerous wind chills are expected in the warning area.
Dressing for cold weather is especially important. You should wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air between the layers of clothing acts as an insulator. Always wear a hat outdoors since half of your body heat can be lost through an uncovered head. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible to heat loss. Everyone should be dressed appropriately, even if you think you’re going outside for just a few minutes.
Winter is also a good time to review your general emergency plan and make sure your home emergency kit is packed correctly. Make sure that food and water supplies are current, clothing is appropriate to the season, batteries are fresh and other equipment is in proper working order.
More information about winter weather preparedness is available from the Division of Emergency Management website: BeReadyLexington.com. Information from the division is also available through the DEM Facebook page, LexingtonKYEM, and the DEM Twitter account, @lexkyem.