Weather whether we want or not

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Although the weathermen can’t decide whether Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads will get rain or snow or a mix of both, one thing is certain: whether we like it or not, we will get weather. Because of the cold temperatures, it is imperative to be prepared, and there actually is a way to take winter by storm.

Jim Judkins, Suffolk’s Emergency Management coordinator, said it is best to ready before a winter storm strikes, just like in any other emergency situation.

&uot;We don’t know what the weather will do in Hampton Roads, but it’s for sure we are going to get some type of precipitation,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Winter can mean a disruption of electric power and a heat source, and it can also mean serious driving problems for those of us who must be on the roads. Of course the safest place in a storm is inside your home, but there are measures you can take before a storm hits to ensure your safety in case you are stranded or stuck in a cold winter storm.&uot;

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Those who are prepared will weather the storm far better than those did not make provision for such an event. He added that just like preparation for a hurricane or any other severe weather, it might make a difference in how a person or family comes through the incident.

&uot;Regardless of whether the predicted storm strikes, it only makes sense to be prepared for it,&uot; he added. &uot;If Suffolk is spared the actual snow storm they suspect might strike, then nothing is lost. However, in some instances, especially where older people are involved, it could make a great deal of difference.&uot;

Judkins said there are several ways to prepare a home for severe winter weather as well as something almost everyone forgets; their vehicle. There are a great deal more items needed other than anti-freeze for the vehicles.

&uot;Anyone who drives in winter weather should have an emergency storm car kit with them at all times,&uot; he said. &uot;You should always keep the items in the vehicle where they may be easily reached. The items should all be kept together in a container, such as one of the large plastic tubs like you can get at any store. By placing them in one container, the items are less likely to be lost or used at another time.&uot;

Judkins said a winter storm car kit should contain emergency flares, a battery powered radio, dry winter clothing, a first aid kit, and packages of dried fruit and nuts. He suggested that a brightly colored cloth should be placed in the kit in case an emergency flag is needed to summon help. Also, a flashlight, blanket, boots, a windshield scraper, extra batteries for the radio, bottled water and gloves would be part of a kit.

Of course, a small sack of play sand, such as purchased at Lowe’s, a small shovel, windshield scraper, jumper cables and a tow chain or rope should be included in the emergency kit.

All the items including the plastic tub to contain them are available at Lowe’s of Suffolk.

Judkins, who also serves as a captain with the Suffolk Fire Department, had several suggestions concerning breakdowns during a winter storm.

&uot;First of all, stay in your car,&uot; he said. &uot;You could become disoriented, especially if we had a severe snow storm. It would make it more difficult for rescue personnel to find you. Also, use your cell phone to call for help, and tie that piece of colored cloth, red or orange is best, to your vehicle’s antenna as a distress signal. And, turn on the vehicle’s engine for only 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater during that time, but beware of carbon monoxide poisoning and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to prevent the fumes from backing up into the vehicle.&uot;

Judkins added that watching for signs of hypothermia or frostbite is also crucial in a winter storm. Some symptoms include drowsiness, uncontrollable shivering, memory lapses and white or pale fingers, toes, nose or ears. He said moving the arms and legs will help stimulate circulation in the body.

Even people in the safety of a home should take steps, just in case. Judkins said there should always be supply of non-perishable foods on hand in the event the storm knocks out power and the means to cook a meal. He suggested making sure there is an adequate supply of fuel to warm the home, and in case power does go out, an alternate heat source would be a good item to have on hand.

Many people keep a generator to provide power when the storm causes a break in Dominion Power’s lines. Judkins said it is extremely important to place that unit outside the home in a well-ventilated area and never fuel a generator as it is running.

&uot;The best thing a person can do when severe winter weather is predicted is to prepare their home and car and then stay indoors,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to and if you do end up having to shovel snow, remember to be careful and don’t put a strain on the heart. Cold weather is already a strain on your heart and we must be extra careful when exerting ourselves in storms.&uot;

For further details on protecting your home and family, contact Judkins at 923-2110.