Plan ahead for winter

Published 5:51 pm Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Matt Myers, assistant manager at Taylor’s Do It Center, is ready to sell snow shovels and ice removers.

Matt Myers, assistant manager at Taylor’s Do It Center, is ready to sell snow shovels and ice removers.

It’s hard to think snow when it’s warm enough to eat Thanksgiving dinner in shorts and flip flops.

The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies, with temperatures peaking at 69 degrees, for today’s holiday. But don’t let the warm weather fool you; winter is just around the corner, according to Suffolk Fire and Rescue emergency responders who are promoting Nov. 29-Dec. 5 as the Winter Preparedness Week in Virginia.

Virginia has experienced severe winter weather, with several record-breaking snowstorms and frigid temperatures, in recent years, said city spokeswoman Diana Klink.

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The Virginia Department of Emergency Management urges people to have emergency kits that include enough supplies to be trapped inside for three days, including non-perishable foods, three gallons of water per person, a battery-powered radio and a battery pack for recharging mobile devices; and a family emergency plan and contact list.

The National Weather Service reported that Suffolk received a total of 12.7 inches of snow in 2014, down from 15.5 inches in 2013. During 2011 and 2012, Suffolk received .5 inches and 1.8 inches respectively, a reprieve after the city was blanketed by 21.8 inches in 2010.

These figures were recorded at Norfolk International Airport, the closest official NWS reporting site to Suffolk but still about 30 miles outside of the city, said meteorologist Dan Proch.

Virginia could get a wetter-than-average and colder-than-average winter because of a strong El Niño effect, Proch said. The weather service is predicting above-median precipitation amounts for December, January and February because of El Nino.

The term references large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the Central and East-Central Equatorial Pacific.

As Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season, local retailers say they aren’t expecting an influx of shoppers focused on winter storm preparation supplies next week. But at Taylor’s Do It Center, many customers who fell victim to last year’s snowfalls stocked up on salt and snow shovels weeks ago, said Manager Stephanie White.

“We have had several people who got stuck at the last minute last year come in for heaters, shovels, water and small grills,” said White. “Several said they wanted to take care of this before the holidays.”

Taylor’s is already on its second shipment of salt, ice-melters and snow shovels this year, she added.

Donald Craddock, assistant manager of Lowe’s near downtown Suffolk, estimates his store has 20 pallets of snow-removal products ready to put on the sales floor. So far, there has not been a huge demand from individuals; most customers who have bought the items to date are small businesses, he said.

“It seems like people are always surprised by the first bout of snow,” said Craddock. “Once it gets real cold, it gets hectic, and things move real fast.

“It’s always hard for us to get shovels and salt, because of the huge demand for them up north. The majority of it ends up there … and this area gets overlooked.”

The city’s Public Works department is also ramping up preparation efforts for snow and ice this winter, said Klink. With the huge variance in snow accumulations during the last five years, snow removal costs have fluctuated wildly, ranging from $23,000 to $680,000 annually for the city.

Public Works has 25 snowplows with salt and sand spreaders and three brine-spreading trucks to treat and pre-treat more than 1,650 miles of city roads and bridges, said Klink. Each of the units has been maintained and calibrated to prepare for the upcoming winter and sand and salt reserves left from last year will be topped off by the end of this year, she said.

Residents should also consider joining Suffolk on the Alert, a web-based emergency notification system available as a free service to anyone providing an email address or cell phone number, Klink said.

Registered users get notifications on daily traffic and emergency weather alerts, as well as ones related to public works, public utilities, parks and recreation and events.

Sign up for the service by using the Suffolk on the Alert button found on the city’s website,