The National Weather Service in Tulsa has issued a “high-impact winter storm advisory” for Sunday through Monday, bringing with it the possibility of up to 10 inches of snow.
Sunday’s high temperatures will be in the teens, with lows that night falling to near zero. Though it’s impossible to predict snowfall totals, eastern Oklahoma meteorologists warn of significant accumulation, which will have a huge impact on the area.
Another winter storm is expected in the area Wednesday, Sequoyah County Emergency Management Director Steve Rutherford said Friday.
“It could get nasty,” Rutherford said, noting that bone-chilling 20 mph winds are also expected as the storm rolls through Sunday and Monday, creating the possibility of blowing snow and whiteout conditions. Updates on weather conditions will be posted frequently on the Sequoyah County Emergency Management Facebook page, Rutherford added.
He urged area residents to stay inside as much as possible and to avoid getting out on the treacherous roads during the storm.
With residents bracing for the storm’s impact, it’s vitally important to stay safe and warm as temperatures plummet and conditions deteriorate.
Heavy snow can immobilize a region, stranding drivers and disrupting emergency and medical services. In addition, the Tulsa NWS warns, the weight of snow can cause roofs to collapse and knock down trees and power lines. Homes and farms may be isolated for days and unprotected livestock may be lost.
Primary concerns during a winter storm are loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day. Either way, the NWS recommends having the following items on hand:
*A flashlight and extra batteries
*A battery-powered National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio and a portable radio to receive emergency information
*Extra food and water such as dried fruit, nuts, granola bars and other food that requires no cooking or refrigeration
*Extra prescription medication
*Baby items such as diapers and formula
*Heating fuel (Refuel before you are empty; fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm)
*Emergency fuel source: Fireplace, wood stove or heater (properly ventilated to prevent a fire)
*Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm (test smoke alarms monthly to ensure they work properly
*Extra pet food and water and warm shelter for pets
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is encouraging residents to stay home during the upcoming winter weather event. Starting Sunday, OHP is discouraging any travel because of the dangerous conditions that will be caused by the storm.
OHP is partnering with the Oklahoma National Guard to have Stranded Motorist Assist Response Teams (SMART) ready to assist travelers if needed. These teams will be placed strategically throughout the interstate system Sunday through Wednesday. There will be teams on Interstates 44, 40 and 35.
The teams will consist of 8-10 National Guardsmen and troopers with three to four National Guard vehicles and one to two troopers. The teams will respond as a convoy to any emergencies. They will have equipment to remove vehicles from roadways but their main goal will be to rescue any stranded motorists and get them to a warm and safe location.
This is a joint effort between the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma National Guard, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Despite this effort, there is not enough personnel to be in all places across the state at once. Depending on the conditions and the call volume, it could take a team several hours to get to a stranded motorist.
Before you leave your house, especially before a longer trip in winter, make sure all fluid levels in your car are full and ensure that the lights, heater and windshield wipers are in proper condition. Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Avoid traveling alone; let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes. Then call 511 for the latest traffic and road incidents, including construction, weather conditions and restrictions.
If you must brave the roads during the storm, be sure your vehicle is fully checked and winterized and pack an emergency supply kit in case of trouble. According to weather.gov, that kit should include:
*A mobile phone, charger and batteries
*Blankets and sleeping bags
*A flashlight and extra batteries
*A first-aid kit
*High-calorie, non-perishable food
*Extra clothing to keep dry
*Large empty can to use as emergency toilet, tissues, toilet paper and paper towels
*Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
*Sack of sand or cat litter for traction
*Windshield scraper and brush
SAFE GENERATOR USE
If you plan to use a generator at your home in case of a power outage, remember these tips from redcross.org:
*To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use in rainy or wet conditions. Operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure such as under a tarp held up on poles. Do not touch the generator with wet hands.
*Be sure to turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
*Store fuel for the generator in an approved safety can. Use the type of fuel recommended in the instructions or on the label on the generator.
*Store the fuel outside living areas in a locked shed or other protected area. To guard against accidental fire, do not store it near a fuel-burning appliance such as a natural gas water heater in a garage.
*Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads.
*Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
*Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. Known as “backfeeding,” this practice puts utility workers, your neighbors and your household at risk of electrocution.
Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning while using a generator is a very important safety measure. Following are more helpful tips from redcross.org.
*Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
*Opening doors and windows or using fans will NOT prevent CO buildup in the home. Although it can’t be seen or smelled, CO can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death. Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed. If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY -- DO NOT DELAY.
*Most importantly, install CO alarms in central location on every level of your home to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide. Test the batteries monthly and replace when needed.
Don't forget about keeping pets safe during the frigid weather. The American Humane Society offers the following tips:
*Keep your pets inside, both during the day and night. Just because they have fur doesn’t mean they can withstand cold temperatures.
*If dogs are left outside, they should have a draft-free shelter large enough to stand and turn around in, yet small enough to retain body heat. Use a layer of straw or other bedding material to help insulate them against the cold. Make sure the entrance to the shelter faces away from the direction of incoming wind and snow.
*Keep your cats indoors. Cats can freeze in cold weather without shelter. Sometimes cats left outdoors in cold weather seek shelter and heat under the hoods of automobiles and are injured or killed when the ignition is turned on. Banging loudly on the hood of your car a few times before starting the engine will help avoid a tragic situation. (This is true for wild animals in cold weather as well).
*When taking your pets out for a bathroom break, stay with them. If it’s too cold for you to stand outside, it is probably also too cold for your pets.
Precautions for Outdoor Pets
*Remember that staying warm requires extra calories. Outdoor animals typically need more calories in the winter, so feed them accordingly when the temperature drops. Talk to your veterinarian for advice on proper diet.
*Watch your pet’s outside fresh-water bowl. If it is not heated, you may need to refresh it more often as it freezes in cold weather.
*Salt and de-icers: Many pets like to go outside to romp and stomp in the snow, but many people use powerful salt and chemicals on their sidewalks to combat ice buildup. Thoroughly clean your pets’ paws, legs and abdomen after they have been outside, to prevent ingestion of toxic substances and to prevent their pads from becoming dry and irritated. Signs of toxic ingestion include excessive drooling, vomiting and depression.
*Ice and snow: When you let your pets in from a walk or a romp outside, make sure to wipe their paws and undersides — get those ice balls off as soon as possible, as they can cause frostbite. After being outside, check your pets’ paws, ears and tail for frostbite. Frostbitten skin usually appears pale or gray and can be treated by wrapping the area in a dry towel to gradually warm the area. Check with your veterinarian if you suspect frostbite.
*Use nontoxic antifreeze. Antifreeze is great-tasting to pets, but even a very small amount ingested can be deadly. Look for “safe” nontoxic antifreeze, consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol, and make sure all spills are cleaned up immediately and thoroughly. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pets have ingested any antifreeze!
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Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer
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