This past January, Missourians were reminded of the hazards that can come with a Show-Me State winter and the importance of being prepared and monitoring the weather forecast.
Beginning January 12, much of the state was impacted by freezing rain and accumulating ice that impacted roads and power lines. Missourians responded by limiting travel and taking other precautions, and the result was actually fewer crashes and fatalities than could have been expected had the weather been good.
Winter is now around the corner and to emphasize the importance of planning ahead. November 15 is designated as Winter Weather Awareness Day by the National Weather Service. NWS, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri Division of Fire Safety, the State Emergency Management Agency and Missouri’s local emergency managers encourages all Missourians to be prepared.
The National Weather Service has prepared a webpage with safety tips and information about winter weather and its impact: weather.gov/lsx/winterday. The page includes explanations of weather terms like “wind-chill index” as well as information on generator safety and avoiding health and safety risks that come with frigid temperatures, snow and ice.
Some of the severe winter weather preparations Missourians should consider include:
• Create a family emergency plan and an emergency kit. Emergency supplies should include bottled water, canned and dry foods, battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, manual can opener and a first-aid kit. When power outages are possible, charge cell phones and other devices in advance so you are able to communicate if power is lost.
• Assemble a separate vehicle winter emergency kit. Include a blanket, radio with spare batteries, snacks or energy-type food, jumper cables, flares, shovel and sand or shingles to give tires traction.
• Know the risks of exposure to cold temperatures. Protect against frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting clothing in several layers. Limit time spent outdoors in frigid temperatures and stay indoors, if possible.
• Avoid driving whenever possible when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, make sure an emergency kit is in the vehicle, that cell phones are charged and emergency numbers are saved for fast dialing. Check on road conditions in advance on the MoDOT’s Traveler Info Map: http://traveler.modot.org/map/. If your vehicle breaks down or slides off the road, stay with your vehicle and call or wait for help.
• Make sure alternate heat and power sources, such as fireplaces, woodstoves, kerosene heaters and generators function properly. These sources can be dangerous and must be maintained and operated. Keep the correct fuel for each source on hand in a safe location. Proper ventilation is essential. Properly install carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home. Only operate generators outdoors.
• Remember space heaters are dangerous and potentially deadly when misused. Space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires and 80 percent of home heating fire deaths annually, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These devices are supplemental heating sources and should be turned off when leaving a room or going to bed. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from heating equipment. Never overload extension cords or electrical outlets. Spaces heaters should never be used in place of a primary heating system.
People should also be aware of the latest weather forecast and understand the different terms NWS uses when issuing winter weather advisories: a winter storm watch means severe winter weather may affect your area within 12-48 hours; a winter storm warning is severe winter weather is in the area or is imminent and could be life threatening; and ice storm warnings means ice accumulations of a quarter-inch or more are expected in your area.