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Storming Ahead: A Primer for Weathering the Winter Storm

Patch file photo. Barbara Heins.
Patch file photo. Barbara Heins.

Winter storm “PAX” is predicted to affect our area this week possibly bringing significant snowfall, causing low visibility, dangerous road conditions and unhealthy cold temperatures.

It is not advisable to go outdoors or travel during this storm. Here are some helpful tips on how to cope with the impending storm.

1)    Know the terms used by weather forecasters:

    • · Freezing rain - Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
    • · Sleet - Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet causes roads to freeze and become slippery.
    • · Winter Storm Warning - A winter storm is occurring, or will soon occur in your area.
    • · Blizzard Warning - Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles-per hour or greater.  Conditions include falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) and are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
    • · Frost/Freeze Warning - Below freezing temperatures (32°F) are expected. 

    2)    What to do in the cold and during a winter storm

      • Always follow directions given by Town officials during a storm emergency.
      • Listen to your radio or television and NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.
      • Keep occupied with activity, eating nutritiously and drink ample fluids, but avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol.
      • Dress appropriately. Wear several layers of warm, loose fitting and lightweight clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Always wear a hat, as most body heat is lost through the top of the head and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.  Always be aware of possible dangers using electric appliances such as heating blankets and room heaters.
      • Shovel snow during a storm only when necessary. Over-exertion can be dangerous to your health, especially your heart.
      • Watch for signs of Frostbite: loss of feeling and abnormal coloring in extremities (fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose). If symptoms are detected, call 911 immediately
      • Watch for signs of Hypothermia: bluishness or puffiness of the skin, dilated pupils, decreased respiratory rate, irregular pulse, uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms occur, get the person to a warm location, remove any wet clothing and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the person is conscious. Call 911 for medical help immediately.
      • When using portable generators, never use indoors (even if garage doors are open) or in enclosed spaces.  Exhausts from these units contain carbon monoxide (CO).  Also, do not supply generator power to your home’s main line.
      • Avoid traveling on the roads, recognizing the hazards of snow drifts and ice under the snow.

      3) Prepare to survive independently (shelter in place) for several days.

        • Gather disaster supplies. Be sure to include winter specific items such as rock salt and sand to melt ice on walkways, snow shovels, candles, flashlights, battery operated radios, First Aid Items:  bandages, blankets, First Aid handbook and all special medicines; a supply of non-perishable goods that require no cooking or refrigeration and a can opener; a minimum of one-gallon of water per person a day
        • Do not use gas stoves or charcoal grills for heat. They can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning
        • Use alternative equipment for heat (wood burning stove or fireplace – well vented).  Keep at least one room at a livable temperature. (Be sure the room is well ventilated.) Kerosene heaters can be dangerous. Never use any fuel other than kerosene in a kerosene heater and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines if they are to be used.
        • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and know how to use them.

        The following information has been assembled for the general public:

        Storm Conditions

        Power Outages

        Storm conditions can bring high winds, snow drifts, icing, possible flooding and power outages. Keep a battery-powered radio handy, stay indoors, avoid traveling on the roads.  Motor vehicles should be kept off the street so emergency response crews can access the area to clear trees and snow, service wires and respond to medical emergencies.

        During power outages:

          • Unplug your appliances.
          • Generators should be used with caution. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and NEVER operate a generator indoors. Also, do not operate a generator inside the garage with or without the door being opened.  DO NOT supplygenerator power to your home’s main line as you may injure a utility employee.  Be aware of pooled water at all times. 
            • Conserve fuel and water.  A few large containers can be filled with warm water for an emergency supply.
            • Observe health and safety precautions when issued especially during times of fallen trees and power lines.
              • Do not use charcoal grills indoors (includes garage) or gas stoves as a source of heat.  Either one can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
                • When using candles, do so with extreme caution.
                  • Fireplaces may be used as long as they are properly vented.
                    • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed.  When anticipating a power failure, set refrigerator and freezer temperatures to a colder setting to build up a cooling reserve.  With the door closed, fully stacked freezers will keep for two days, while half full freezers will keep food for one day.  Dry ice can be used safely in freezers; however, gloves must be worn in handling and proceed as recommended.
                      • All thawed food may be cooked if maintained below 45 degrees, otherwise it should be discarded.  It is not recommended to refreeze any food once it has thawed.
                      • Refrigerated food, especially perishable items such as eggs, milk, fish, meat and poultry, should be maintained at 45o, or below.  Foods should be cooked or discarded after three hours of not being maintained at proper temperatures.  All stuffed meats and poultry should be discarded.  
                      TO REPORT ONLY EMERGENCIES – For all Police, Fire and EMS emergencies, dial 911.

                      Emergency Helplines – Utilities:

                        • Aquarion Water Co. 1-800-732-9678
                        • Northeast Utilities 1-800-286-2000
                        • CT Natural Gas Co. (203) 869-6900
                        • Connecticut Poison Control 1-800-222-1222

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