Missouri has been experiencing an unusually mild fall, but that is not an indication of the severity of the winter weather to come.
Despite high temperatures in the 70s, it’s already time for Missourians to think about dealing with hazards like frigid temperatures, heavy snowfall and significant ice storms. To emphasize the importance of planning ahead, Nov. 16 is being promoted as Winter Weather Awareness Day by the National Weather Service and many other agencies.
Officials remind the public of what recent winters have brought and the importance of preparing in advance:
• In January 2014, Missouri experienced the coldest temperatures many areas of the state had seen in more than a decade. Temperatures in St. Louis fell to 8 degrees below zero on Jan. 6, 2014. Jefferson City dipped to minus-9, Hannibal to minus-15, and Farmington to minus-15.
• In 2011, it was record snowfall and whiteout conditions that tormented much of Missouri. Blizzard conditions forced many people to hunker down in their homes and closed Interstate 70 across the state.
• In 2009, a severe ice storm toppled 18,000 power poles and knocked out power to thousands in southeast Missouri, some for more than two weeks.
The National Weather Service has prepared a webpage with many safety tips and information about winter weather and its impact: http://www.weather.gov/lsx/winterday.
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.
• 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. 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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 Missouri Department of Transportation’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.
WHAT ADVISORIES MEAN
The public should understand the different terms the NWS uses when issuing winter weather advisories:
• Winter Storm Watch: Severe winter weather may affect your area within 12-48 hours.
• Winter Storm Warning: Severe winter weather is in the area or is imminent and could be life threatening.
• Ice Storm Warnings: Ice accumulations of a quarter-inch or more are expected in your area.