Residents urged to develop a plan

Transcript Staff

Gov. Brad Henry proclaimed today as Winter Weather Preparedness Day and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service have teamed together to share information designed to assist the public in being better prepared for the winter season.

Last week's winter storm delivered near blizzard conditions across most of Oklahoma and record snowfall totals in many areas of the state. In recent years devastating ice storms have been responsible for nearly 40 deaths, power outages for hundreds of thousands and more than $250 million in damages to Oklahoma cities and towns.

"By following some simple tips and monitoring the media during times of severe weather, Oklahomans stand their best chance at not becoming a victim of the weather," said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS office in Norman.

Winter weather watches and warnings will be issued by the NWS on NOAA weather radios and over radio and television stations so Oklahomans can stay aware of any hazardous winter weather conditions that may arise.

In addition, OEM is teaming up with local emergency management offices across the state in order to encourage winter weather preparedness activities in all Oklahoma communities. Organizations wanting to host winter weather preparedness programs should call their local emergency management office, officials said.

"It's especially timely to review winter weather travel safety plans since more people are typically on the road during the holiday period," said OEM Director Albert Ashwood.

Families planning to travel over the holidays should pack their vehicles with blankets, emergency food and water, flashlights, a radio and cell phone with extra batteries, he said.

To prevent weather-related damage to the home, he advised adding weather stripping and insulation, keeping furnaces clean and ready to use, and staying aware of cold temperatures and vulnerable pipes that might freeze.

Below are some winter weather preparedness tips. Those who would like more information on how to cope with winter weather should contact local emergency management offices in their area or visit www.srh.noaa.gov/oun or www.oem.ok.gov for more tips, safety guidelines and winter weather definitions.



Be aware

Know what winter storm and blizzard watches and warnings mean.

A NWS winter storm watch is a message indicating that conditions are favorable for hazardous winter precipitation to develop.

An NWS warning indicates that a winter storm is occurring or is imminent, and could threaten life and property.

A blizzard warning means sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 mph or greater and considerable falling or blowing snow are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.

Depend on your NOAA Weather Radio, along with local radio and television stations for weather reports.



Plan for a winter storm

Discuss with your family what to do if a winter storm watch or warning is issued. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together when a winter storm hits.

Understand the hazards of wind chill. Cold temperatures are even more dangerous, and potentially deadly, when combined with strong winds. The lower the temperature and stronger the wind, the more at risk you are.

Check on family, friends and neighbors -- especially the elderly. Make sure they are prepared.

Don't forget about the pets. Make sure they have good food and water supplies and a place to seek shelter.

Have your car winterized before winter storm season. During winter storm season keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.



Protect your property

Make sure your home is properly insulated. If necessary insulate walls and attic. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills.

Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.

To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of old newspapers. Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.

Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing and know how to shut off water valves.

Keep safe emergency-heating equipment, such as a fireplace with wood. Always be cautious in using a portable space heater. Consider storing extra heating fuel. Install and check smoke alarms.



Going out in a winter storm

The best way to stay safe in a snowstorm is not to be out in it. Long periods of exposure to severe cold can result in frostbite or hypothermia. It is easy to become disoriented in blowing snow.

Stretch before you do so. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.

Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow.

Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather.

Dress in many layers and wear a hat and mittens and come inside often for warm-up breaks.

If you start to shiver or get very tired, or if your nose, fingers, toes, or ear lobes start to feel numb or turn very pale, come inside right away and seek medical assistance. These are the signs of hypothermia and frostbite and need immediate attention.

Let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive.

If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle and hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood (after snow stops falling).



Winter storm kit contents

A cell phone with extra battery or two-way radio

Windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal

Several blankets or sleeping bags, rain gear and extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks and a cap

Non-perishable snacks like canned fruit, nuts and other high energy "munchies." Include non-electric can opener if necessary.

Several bottles of water. Eating snow will lower your body temperature. If necessary, melt it first.

A small sack of sand or kitty litter for generating traction under wheels, a set of tire chains or traction mats.

A first aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries and jumper cables

A brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna if you get stranded.

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