(WFXR) — As Virginians prepare for snow, sleet, and freezing rain across the Commonwealth on Sunday, there are a number of ways to prepare and protect yourself, your home, and your family during this weekend of winter weather.
Here are some simple tips to keep everyone safe during the winter storm forecasted for Sunday, Jan. 16:
Preparing your home for winter weather:
According to the National Weather Service, the main concern for homes during a winter storm is loss of power, heat, and telephone service, which is why it’s important to keep yourself and your family safe by preparing in advance and not letting a winter storm take you by surprise.
Both weather and emergency response officials advise you to start prepping early by making sure your home has a flashlight, extra batteries, a portable charger, a weather radio, adequate fuel for generators and other equipment, and bottled water (at least three gallons for each person in your household and your pets).
You should also have enough food to last for at least three days, including pet food, if applicable. For example, keep a supply of non-perishable food — like canned food, tea, coffee, trail mix, peanut butter, etc. — and a can opener. You can also stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables that don’t need to be refrigerated, such as oranges, apples or bananas.
Other items to keep around the house include extra prescription medicine; diapers and baby formula, if applicable; a first aid kit; and hygiene products like toilet paper, toothpaste, and moist towelettes in case water is in short supply.
Meanwhile, whether for your car or for your home, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) recommends putting together winter emergency supply kits:
Also, don’t forget to fully charge any cell phones, computers, and mobile devices in advance.
Traveling in winter weather:
Authorities urge you not to travel unless absolutely necessary during winter storms.
This not only keeps icy roadways free of traffic, but it also keeps the roads safer for you, for Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews, and for emergency vehicles.
If you have to drive somewhere, watch for black ice, especially on bridges, curves, and overpasses.
In addition, do not cross roadways that are blocked by trees, debris, or downed power lines, which you should always assume are live power lines.
Using heaters and generators safely:
As Sunday’s winter storm grows closer and you roll out those space heaters, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Fire, make sure you’re only using space heaters in a well-ventilated area with at least three feet of space between your space heater and anything else.
If you need to refill the heating units, do it outside. You should also keep kids, pets, and any flammable items away from the heaters.
“If they’re in your bedroom during the night, we toss and turn, our bedding could get thrown onto them, so it’s recommended that if you leave the room, turn them off, or when you’re going to bed, turn off the space heaters,” said Capt. Ernest Parson with the Beckley Fire Prevention Bureau.
On the other hand, if you’re using wood, kerosene, or other fuels as supplemental heating sources, use caution and make sure you have good ventilation.
Also, check your carbon monoxide alarms to prevent carbon monoxide poisonings. And while you’re at it, why not check on your smoke detectors? If they are more than 10 years old, you are encouraged to get new ones as soon as possible.
If you need to use a generator to heat or power your home, make sure to place the unit outside to reduce the risk of toxic fume build-up.
The VDEM created the following graphic about the importance of generator safety:
Protecting the health of both people and pets:
When you’re shoveling snow, make sure to take it slow and take breaks because the cold temperatures and the extra exertion can put extra strain on heart muscles.
Even if you’re not planning to shovel snow, make sure to dress warmly when you go outside:
- Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing
- Wear a hat, mittens, and a scarf to reduce heat loss.
- Change out of wet clothing frequently.
In short, keep yourself hydrated, dry, and warm.
As for our furry friends, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them, so make sure they have warm shelter and ice-free water over the course of this wintry weekend.
Virginia law says that pets cannot be tied up or chained outdoors when temperatures are 32 degrees or lower, or when there is a severe weather warning.
If you do take your pets outside — like for a walk — make sure to remove any damp sweaters, coats, or boots when you return so they stay warm.
Also, remember to wipe their paws after each trip outside. Ice-melting chemicals or rock salt can cause irritation, sickness, or even death, according to the VDEM.
Police also encourage you to check your vehicles for cats or other critters that may be trying to warm up in or around the vehicles.
Keeping your community safe:
Officials urge you not to call 911 unless you are experiencing an actual emergency.
If you are experiencing an outage, call your private internet or power service provider. If you want to check on road conditions, use www.511virginia.org or download the VDOT 511 app.
A number of localities around southwest and central Virginia have provided alternate contact information for nonemergency situations during winter weather events in order to keep emergency phone lines open for those in urgent need.
If you know there are neighbors or people in the area who may need assistance preparing for or dealing with winter weather, make sure to check on them.