PRYOR, OK —
With forecasters predicting serious winter weather, Mayes County Emergency Management is sharing some tips. MCEM deputy director Mike Dunham said it starts with an understanding of what's coming.
“People watch TV forecasters predicting what's happening, but they don't always know what the terminology means,” said Dunham. “For example, a winter storm warning, winter storm watch and winter storm outlook are all different things. Also snow flurries, snow showers and blowing rain are all different.”
Dunham said the National Weather Service website provides a detailed description of each phrase.
A winter storm watch means that severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area but its occurrence, location and timing are all uncertain, according to NWS. A winter storm watch is issued to provide 12 to 36 hours notice of the possibility of severe weather. A watch is upgraded to a winter storm warning when four or more inches of snow or sleet is expected in the next 12 hours, or six inches in 24 hours, according to the NWS.
“Snow flurries,” simply means a light snow falling for a short duration with no accumulation expected. “Snow showers” means snow falling at varying intensities for a brief period with some accumulation possible. Blowing snow is wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. “Sleet” refers to rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground and usually bounces when hitting a surface rather than sticking to objects. Sleet can accumulate like snow. Freezing rain, on the other hand, is rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces.
“These advisories allow us enough time to prepare, to make sure we have all the necessary supplies should we need them,” said Dunham. “Start by canceling any unnecessary travel. Research shows that 70 percent of fatalities related to winter storms occur in automobiles. Don't travel unless you absolutely have to.”
If you absolutely have to drive in a winter storm, he said, check the city and county snow routes.
“These are the routes that snow plows will clear first. If you have to drive, try adjusting your route and sticking to these roads. Remember that bridges and ramps will freeze first,” said Dunham, adding that it's a good rule of thumb to be sure you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle.
Drive slow, wear a seatbelt and check for road closings before you leave home, he said.
Dunham said if you have to drive, it's a good idea to have emergency supplies in your vehicle as well as in your house.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a comprehensive list of what should be in each location.
“Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Also make sure you have a windshield scraper, blankets, extra sets of dry clothing, bottled water and tire chains,” said Dunham.
The Center for Disease Control emergency preparation website has some suggested items to stock up on inside the home.
Their suggestion includes drinking water, canned/no-cook food, non-electric can opener, prescription drugs, first-aid kit, rock-salt to melt ice on walkways, flashlights and extra batteries.
“Think in advance of anything you may need in regard to prescription refills, fuel and firewood,” said Dunham. “And remember safety rules that go along with using portable heaters.”
Dunham, who also does home appraisals, said it is important to protect your property as well.
“To keep pipes from freezing wrap them with insulation or old newspapers. As you know you can also let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing,” said Dunham. “Also know how to shut off water valves, just in case.”
Another tip Dunham said people often overlook is to reverse the direction of the ceiling fan.
“By reversing it, warm air will be pushed downward, keeping the room a little warmer,” said Dunham.
“Also allow more warm air near your pipes by opening cabinet doors.”
The key, he said, is to simply use common sense and plan ahead.