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November 14, 2013

Six Months After Deadly Tornadoes, Winter Weather Preparedness Day Reminds Oklahomans to Stay Ready for Severe Weather

OKLAHOMA CITY – Nearly six months after the start of deadly tornadoes that struck the state, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) and FEMA urge Oklahomans to continue to stay prepared for severe weather.

During this time of year, that means being ready for hazardous winter weather conditions. Wednesday, Nov. 13 is Winter Weather Preparedness Day in Oklahoma. As we near the winter weather season, this is a time for Oklahomans to become prepared for freezing temperatures and the snow and ice that may accompany them.

Travel

Before traveling, prepare your vehicle:

• Pack blankets, emergency food and water, flashlights, a radio and a cell phone with extra batteries in case you and your family become stranded due to weather.
• Make sure you have plenty of fuel; a good rule of thumb is to keep your fuel tank at least half full.
• Check antifreeze, washer blades and tire pressure.

Always heed the warnings of law enforcement and transportation officials regarding road conditions and refrain from traveling when possible.

If you must travel during a snow or ice event, allow extra time to reach your destination, and make sure you have plenty of fuel.

Be particularly cautious on bridges and overpasses as they will be the first to freeze. Stay back at least 200 feet behind salt and sand equipment in order to stay safe.

Always wear your seat belt.

Bring a cell phone with an emergency roadside assistance number. (In case of emergency, you can call the Oklahoma Highway Patrol at *55 or 911.)

If you must go out during a winter storm, let someone know your destination, as well as your route and when you expect to arrive.

If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle. After snowfall has stopped, hang a brightly-colored cloth on the radio antenna and raise the hood.

Carry extra clothing, blankets and high energy snacks, such as cereal or candy bars in your car for protection if car stalls.

Pack a kit that includes:

• A cell phone with extra batteries or two-way radio
• A windshield scraper, a shovel and small broom for ice and snow removal
• Blankets or sleeping bags
• Rain gear and extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks and a cap
• Water and non-perishable, high-energy foods
• A small sack of sand or kitty litter for generating traction under wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats
• Jumper cables
• A first aid kit
• A flashlight with extra batteries
• A brightly-colored cloth to tie to the antenna if you get stranded.

Be Aware

Know what winter storm and blizzard watches and warnings mean:

• A National Weather Service winter storm watch is a message indicating that conditions are favorable for a winter storm.
• A National Weather Service warning indicates that a winter storm is occurring or is imminent.
• A blizzard warning means sustained winds or frequent gusts up to 35 mph or greater and considerable falling or blowing snow are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.

Understand the hazards of wind chill. A strong wind combined with a temperature of just below freezing can have the same effect as a still air temperature of 35 degrees or colder.

Check for weather-related road conditions through the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety at dps.state.ok.us or by calling toll free, (888) 425-2385 or (405) 425-2385.

At Home

Check on friends, relatives and neighbors who live alone, especially seniors and those with disabilities.

Develop a family disaster plan for winter storms. 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.

Make sure pets have food and water and a place to seek shelter.

While indoors, try to keep at least one room heated to 70 degrees to prevent hypothermia. This is especially important for seniors and children.

Stay warm at night with extra blankets, a warm cap, socks and layered clothing.

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. Know how to shut off water valves if necessary.

Keep safe emergency-heating equipment, such as a fireplace with wood. Always be cautious in using a portable space heater and never leave the heater on when you are not in the room or when you go to bed.

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

• Do not use an unvented gas or kerosene heater in closed spaces, especially sleeping areas.
• Do not use gas appliances such as an oven, grill, range or clothes dryer to heat your home.
• Do not burn charcoal inside a house, garage, vehicle or tent for heating or cooking, even in a fireplace.
• Look for carbon monoxide exposure symptoms including headache, dizziness, weakness, sleepiness, nausea and vomiting that can progress to disorientation, coma, convulsions and death.
• If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances, and go outside for fresh air. Call 9-1-1 emergency medical services in severe cases.
• Install and check/replace batteries in carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Stay informed:

Find a full list of winter weather preparedness tips or sign up now to receive weather alerts on your cell phone or other email address at ok.gov/OEM/.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides additional information online about winter weather watches, warnings and advisories: srh.noaa.gov/ama/?n=wwad.

For more information on Oklahoma disaster recovery, visit the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management site at oem.ok.gov or fema.gov/disaster/4117.