What You Need To Know Before The Storm Hits

By Shaunda Rauch on March 02, 2014 from Emergency Services Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

For the last several days Emergency Management officials, local and national meteorologist and media outlets have been warning you of a major winter storm that is going to impact the east coast today and tomorrow.  So much so that I’ve had friends complain to me about hearing all the warnings being sounded.  “Mother Nature” is a fickle beast, but let me assure you that when I receive consistent weather reports for ice and snow accumulations that could lead to extensive power outages and extremely hazardous road conditions, I’ll be doing my very best to warn you and help you to prepare yourself as much as possible.  “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!” – We hope that what has been predicted does not occur, but we must take steps to warn and prepare for the worst case scenario. 
The last several storms were released as Winter Weather Advisories.  Typically, this is normal winter weather for West Virginia and I don’t post warnings or release Nixle statements for typical weather patterns.  Yesterday however the Charleston National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm WARNING for this system.  What difference does that make?  A Winter Storm Warning means that a winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.  There is enough confirmed data and modeling information to state that a severe, credible weather threat is imminent.  This we are all taking very seriously.
At last night’s weather briefing with the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) the Charleston NWS shared the most probable impact this storm will have on the State.  For our area we could see up to .25” of ice accumulation from freezing rain and sleet that will begin today and then transition into snow overnight into Monday with accumulations between 5 – 8”.  Travel will be extremely hazardous and there is an increased threat of power outages due to downed lines and tree limbs. 
I’ve spent the last two years sharing with you things to do to be prepared for events just like the one that is about to bear down on our beautiful state.  It’s too late now to make any substantial preparations, but there are a few things you should and can do before the storm hits that will make a significant difference on how well you weather the storm:
1.   Make sure that you have at least 3 days’ worth of food and water BEFORE the storm hits.  Chances are restaurants and grocery stores will be closed due to power outages or inaccessible because of road conditions. 
2.   Fill up your gas tanks and be sure that you have enough fuel to operate your generator(s).  Remember, gas stations cannot pump fuel during power outages unless they have back-up power themselves. 
3.   Charge up your phones, laptops, lighting systems … everything you might need NOW.   
4.   Have your basic necessities/disaster supply kit out and ready for use:  blankets, food, water, radio, flashlights and extra batteries, etc.  Even books, toys, cards and games to help pass the time with family and friends. 
5.   Keep informed of the current forecast with your local weather stations.  You can do this on your smart phone, NOAA Weather Radio, AM/FM radio, television, etc.  Being informed is important to your safety and well-being. 
6.   Follow along as we keep you updated on our FB pages [Bridgeport Department of Emergency Services, Bridgeport Police Department and Bridgeport VIPS], Twitter account, Nixle and here on Connect-Bridgeport.
Once the storm hits our area, avoid travel unless it is a dire emergency.  If you can delay your plans, work schedule, appointments … it will keep you out of harm’s way and safe until our Public Works Department and DOH personnel can get the roads cleared.   If you are like many of us and are deemed essential employees and must report to work, here’s some guidance from Ready.gov in case you get stranded on the roadways:
Stranded in a Vehicle
If a blizzard traps you in the car:
  1. Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.
  2. Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful; distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close, but be too far to walk to in deep snow.
  3. Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
  4. Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
  5. Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
  6. Eat regularly and drink ample fluids to avoid dehydration, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  7. Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs - the use of lights, heat, and radio - with supply.
  8. Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.
  9. If stranded in a remote area, stomp large block letters in an open area spelling out HELP or SOS and line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane.
  10. Leave the car and proceed on foot - if necessary - once the blizzard passes.

Stay safe and stay out of harm’s way Bridgeport!!  

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