As winter weather approaches, Wyandot County Public Health is encouraging residents to start planning now for a safe winter.
Putting plans in place now helps to minimize the potential risks associated with winter and cold weather-related incidents. Now is the time to restock emergency supply kits, ensure homes and vehicles are prepared and maintained and to review emergency plans. And remember it’s not too late to get vaccinations to protect against influenza and COVID-19 while everyone is stuck inside.
“Winter storms and icy conditions can create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, and carbon monoxide poisoning,” Wyandot County Emergency Management Association Director Dale Risley explained. “Storms this winter might create blizzard conditions, freezing rain, snow, ice, extreme cold and high winds. A severe winter storm can last for days and can cut off your heat and cause prolonged power outages.”
According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) annual U.S. Winter Outlook precipitation map, states in the Midwest including Ohio are leaning toward above-normal or wetter-than-average precipitation this winter.
NOAA also indicates that La Niña climate conditions will continue for the second consecutive winter. La Niña is a natural ocean-atmospheric phenomenon marked by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator.
When winter weather is looming, Wyandot County residents should pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms, Risley said. Sign up for Wyandot County’s alert system WENS at bit.ly/3cgx0j2. The Emergency Alert System and NOAA Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
It is important to create an emergency supply kit for the vehicle as well. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight (hand-crank or battery-operated), first aid kit, warm clothes, gloves, hats, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Try to keep a full tank of gas.
During a winter storm it’s best to avoid traveling on the roads when possible.Those who do plan to travel should check the road conditions first by visiting the Ohio Department of Transportation’s website at ohgo.com. Those who become trapped in their car should stay inside and call or signal for help.
When going out in winter temperatures, limit exposure. Be sure to dress in layers and to wear a coat, hat, and gloves. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
Ahead of winter, Wyandot County residents should also review the difference between snow emergency levels.
– Level one: The township, county and secondary roads are hazardous with the possibility of blowing and drifting snow. Caution is recommended for drivers if they choose to drive.
– Level two: All roads, including primary roads are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be on the roadways. Employees should contact their employers to see if they should report to work.
– Level three: Roads are closed to all non-essential personnel, and no one should be on roadways unless it is absolutely necessary. All employees should contact their employer to see if they should report to work. Those traveling on any roadway in the county may subject themselves to citation or arrest.
As we transition into the winter weather season, everyone is encouraged to prepare with the following safety tips:
– Practice fire safety and prevention. With the winter months, holiday season, and the continuing pandemic, people will spend more time indoors and will cook, decorate, and entertain more, which can lead to an increase in home fires. The best protection is to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test detectors monthly. Conduct fire drills with members of the household. Never use generators or grills indoors, in garages or near windows. Never heat the home with a gas stovetop or oven.
– Change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year – when you change your clocks, change your batteries. Have auxiliary heaters, furnaces, and fireplaces checked or serviced before using.Install caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows. Check and renew insulation. Insulate pipes to reduce freezing.
– Remember that cooking-related fires are the number one cause of house fires. Never leave cooking food unattended. Keep towels, potholders, and paper products away from heated stoves.
– Prepare the home for winter. Cut and remove low-hanging and dead tree branches. High winds, ice, and snow can cause tree limbs to break and cause damage to a home. Have gutters cleaned. Snow and ice can build up quickly with debris if clogged and cause additional damage.
– Prepare winter emergency supplies kits for the home and vehicle. Check the expiration dates on nonperishable food items, bottled water/beverages, and medications. Winter emergency kits should include essential items such as flashlights, extra batteries, blankets, coats, hats, gloves, a battery-operated radio/weather radio, first aid kit, cell phone and charger, medications and enough nonperishable food and water (one gallon per person, per day) to sustain every household member for several days. Lastly, store food, bottled water, and supplies for each pet in the household.