12/14/04 — It's about to get cold, so here are some winter tips

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It's about to get cold, so here are some winter tips

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 14, 2004 2:05 PM

With Christmas almost here, most people's thoughts are on the holidays, not winter weather preparations.

But along with the holidays comes winter weather, sometimes with harsh conditions. Earlier this year in February, Wayne County was blanketed with more than five inches of snow in one day.

Officials with the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross say the outlook for this winter is a colder-than-normal one and maybe even with some snow.

The Red Cross gives these distinctions between various winter storms:

*Winter storm watch -- severe winter conditions such a heavy snow and/or ice are possible within the next day or two.

*Winter storm warning -- severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin in the area.

*Blizzard warning -- snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow with near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill.

*Winter weather advisory -- winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. But if caution is used, these situations should not become life-threatening.

*Frost/freeze warning -- below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause significant damage to plants, crops or fruit trees.

Winter storms are called "deceptive killers" because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. People die in traffic accidents on icy roads. They die of heart attacks while shoveling snow. And they die of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to the cold.

The Red Cross chapter, along with the National Weather Service in Raleigh, offer this advice to prepare for winter weather:


*Have extra blankets on hand.

*Ensure each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, a hat and water-resistant boots.

*Assemble a disaster supply kit with these items: First aid kit and essential medications, canned food and a can opener, at least three gallons of water per person, protective clothing, rainwear and bedding, portable radio, flashlight and extra batteries and special items for infants, elderly and disabled family members.

*Stock and emergency supply of food and water before a winter storm hits. Include foods that need no cooking such as canned meats, peanut butter and other nonperishables.

*Keep an adequate supply of heating fuel such as firewood or kerosene and use sparingly as supplies may be in short order during winter storms.

*Prevent water pipes from freezing by wrapping them with insulation or newspaper covered with plastic. In really cold weather, let your faucets drip slightly to help avoid freezing. If your pipes do freeze, remove the insulation and wrap them in rags. Open every faucet in the house and pour hot water over the rag-wrapped pipes. Also know how to shut off your water supply should water lines break.

*Make sure that every family member knows how to evacuate the house in the event of a fire.

Each year the Wayne County Chapter of the Red Cross helps victims of fires that were caused by improper heating or cooking or decorating. They offer these suggestions:

*Never cook or heat your home using a charcoal grill, gas grill or camp stove. They create deadly carbon monoxide fumes that will build up when used in the home.

*Never burn paper.

*Be careful with candles.

*Do not hang holiday decorations from or on your fireplace if you plan to use it as a heat source.

*Don't overload your electrical outlets and be careful when using extension cords.

*Have one or more working fire extinguishers in your home and check smoke detectors.


*Have your car winterized before the winter season. Make sure the battery, antifreeze, windshield wipers and thermostat are in good working order. Be sure your tired have enough tread.

*When traveling, let someone know your destination and when you plan to arrive.

*Clean snow and ice off all parts of your car before you drive.

*Keep your gas tank as full as possible. This will not only give you added peace of mind, but it also increase the weight of your car, which will provide additional traction.

*Keep these basic items in your car: Windshield scraper and brush, booster cables, a two chain or rope, bag of sand or salt, a blanket, a flashlight, a first aid kit and a road map.

*Try not to travel alone.

*If you do get stuck out in your car, stay with the car and don't try to walk to safety. Tie a brightly-colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see. Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes don't back up in the car. Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm. Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.


*To avoid a chill, layer clothes in three layers: Underwear, insulation and outer shell. Choose long underwear or thin, snug-fitting pants with a long-sleeved T-shirt or turtleneck. Use one or more layers of insulation such as sweaters, sweatshirts and other similar garments. For the outer shell, choose garments that are windproof and waterproof such as those made of coated nylon or polyester. A good fit is crucial. Wear a hat to save half of your body heat loss. Wear gloves and warm socks.

*To increase safety of your family, friends and neighbors, keep your walkways and driveway free of snow and ice. It's easier to remove snow immediately following a snowfall before it becomes packed or turns to ice.

*When shoveling, take it slowly and do it carefully. Lift small amounts at a time. Use proper posture to prevent back strain. Keep your back straight and lift gently from the knees and hips.

*Do not eat snow as it will lower your body temperature.

It's easy to become a victim of hypothermia when outside in the winter weather. Hypothermia is low body temperature and its warning signs are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.

If you suspect someone has hypothermia, take his temperature. If it's below 95 F, seek medical care immediately.

For more information or free pamphlets about winter weather preparation, contact the Wayne County Chapter of the Red Cross at 735-7201.