While Hurricane Sandy brought a surprise, early significant accumulating snowfall to portions of Virginia, meteorological winter doesn’t officially begin in the Commonwealth until Saturday.
With the upcoming winter season in mind, Governor Bob McDonnell has proclaimed December 2-8 as Winter Preparedness Week in the Commonwealth and is encouraging all Virginians to take this time to prepare to protect themselves and their families in the event of any major winter storms in the months ahead.
“Over the past 14 months, the Commonwealth has suffered through extended power outages resulting from warm weather systems like hurricanes and derechos. We hope all Virginians have taken note of these storms and will now take steps to be ready for the storms that winter could bring,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell. “As a Commonwealth, we are taking every prudent precaution to prepare and I hope that Virginians will do the same. To highlight the importance of being winter-ready, I am asking our citizens to observe December 2-8 as Winter Preparedness Week.”
Although last winter was less snowy than the previous two winters in Virginia, the National Weather Service notes that anything could happen this year. “It looks as though there will be a greater number of opportunities for low pressure systems to track nearby compared to last winter,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. “Temperatures are the wildcard in the pattern that is setting up. If we have cold temperatures with these southern low pressure systems, then we could have more snow or messy mixed precipitation events.”
What should Virginians do to prepare for winter weather? Here are several important safety tips:
• Get fireplaces and wood stove chimneys inspected and cleaned. These often build up creosote, which is the residue left behind by burning wood. Creosote is flammable and must be professionally removed.
• Install smoke detectors in every bedroom and one on every level of your home. Check the batteries every month. If you already have smoke detectors and did not replace the batteries when the time changed recently, replace them now.
• If you use space heaters, plug them directly into wall sockets; don’t use extension cords. Keep space heaters at least three feet from other objects such as furniture, bedding and draperies. Do not leave space heaters unattended. Turn them off when you go to bed or leave the house.
• Gather emergency supplies. Start with these items: at least three days of food that does not need refrigeration or electricity to prepare, in case the power is out; at least three days of water, which is one gallon of water per day per family member; a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio and extra batteries; flashlights and extra batteries; a first aid kit and an extra supply of medications in case you can’t get out to get prescriptions refilled. Get more details and a checklist at www.ReadyVirginia.gov.
• Make an emergency plan. Decide on a meeting place to reunite if your family cannot return home. Choose an out-of-town friend or relative as a point-of-contact and be sure all family members have that person’s phone number – it is often easier to call long distance than to call locally during an emergency. Remember family members with special needs and your pets when making your emergency plan. Get a free worksheet at http://www.vaemergency.gov/sites/default/files/Plan_0.pdf
• Get where you need to go before the weather gets bad. Road condition information is available 24/7 by calling 511 or visiting www.511Virginia.org. Even when roads have been treated with salt and/or sand, drivers should reduce speed and leave a safe driving distance from other vehicles on the road. Driving is most dangerous when the temperature is at or under 32° F. If the road is wet, ice is likely, especially on bridges, ramps and overpasses.