Storm tips

Published 10:17 pm Thursday, January 5, 2017

As the amount of snowfall to be expected in Southeast Virginia this weekend continued to rise throughout the day on Thursday, agencies and organizations from AAA to the Virginia State Police issued press releases containing a wide variety of tips for staying safe.

Car Prep

From AAA, among other tips, these on preparing your vehicle:

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Check to ensure the battery, ignition system, and lights are in good working order.

Check brakes and tires for wear that might making stopping and starting difficult.

Make sure your tires are properly inflated and in good condition. The amount of traction determines how well the vehicle accelerates, turns and stops.

Check the level of antifreeze in your vehicle’s cooling system.

Have clear vision to drive. Wipers should be checked for wear.

When you get home, raise the wipers off the front windshield before the snow to avoid freezing to the glass overnight

Washer fluids should be filled with anti-freeze washer solvent. Wipe off wiper blades before you drive to avoid damage from ice.

Have an emergency winter driving kit in the vehicle. Include items like abrasive material (sand, or kitty litter) small shovel, flashlight, ice scraper/snow brush, booster cables, blanket, gloves or mittens and flares or reflective triangles.

Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze up.

Remove all snow from vehicle, as snow left on any surface increases the possibility that visibility will be affected while driving.

When parking, back into the driveway or parking space to make leaving easier and less dangerous after the snow.

Fire Safety

From the city of Suffolk, a warning from Lieutenant Charles Chapin with the Fire Marshal’s Office: “Cold weather such as this brings with it a unique set of circumstances that can enhance the possibility of residential fires. The use of candles, heating sources and makeshift cooking methods can significantly increase the chances of a fire occurring.”

The city shared a variety of tips geared toward heating and generator safety:

Use kerosene heaters and space heaters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Alternative heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.

Make sure your alternative heaters have ‘tip switches.’ These ‘tip switches’ are designed to automatically turn off the heater in the event they tip over.

Do not use the kitchen oven to heat your home. In addition to being a fire hazard, it can be a source of toxic fumes.

Never refill a space heater while it is operating or still hot.

Refuel heaters only outdoors.

Make sure wood stoves are properly installed, and at least three feet away from combustible materials. Ensure they have the proper floor support and adequate ventilation.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when using generators.

Use a generator or other fuel-powered machines outside the home. Carbon monoxide fumes are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you indoors.

Use the appropriate sized and type power cords to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires.

Never run cords under rugs or carpets where heat might build up or damage to a cord may go unnoticed.

Never connect generators to another power source such as power lines. The reverse flow of electricity or “backfeed” can electrocute an unsuspecting utility worker.

Be careful when using candles. Keep the flame away from combustible objects and out of the reach of children.

If the power goes out, make certain that all electrical appliances, such as stoves, electric space heaters and hair dryers, are in the OFF position.

Make certain that your home’s smoke alarms are in proper working order.

Some smoke alarms may be dependent on your home’s electrical service and could be inoperative during a power outage. Check to see if your smoke alarm uses a back-up battery and install a new battery at least twice a year.

Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas.

Ice Safety

From the Suffolk Police Department, a warning about ice-covered ponds and lakes:

It is dangerous to try to venture out onto what appears to be a frozen body of water, as the ice here is not thick enough to support the weight of even a small child. Out temperatures will not have been low for long enough to create the minimum clear ice thickness recommended to permit ice sports or recreation.

Parents and care providers should warn their children not to play on or near the ice.

If you see someone fall though the ice, call 911 immediately. Do not attempt to go onto the ice to attempt a rescue, as you may become a victim as well. You should try to reach the victim with a rope, rolled blanket, pole or other object until rescue crews arrive.

Road Safety

From the Virginia State Police, which is swamped with accident calls whenever Tidewater gets a significant snowfall, a reminder to “drive to the conditions,” along with the following driving tips:

Use headlights. Increasing your visibility helps you to avoid slick and dangerous spots on the road, and it helps other drivers see you better.

Slow down. Though state police works closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation to identify problem areas on Virginia’s highways during a snowstorm, drivers still must drive for conditions. Slowing your speed gives you more time to safely react and avoid a crash. Drive your vehicle based on your ability to properly maintain control of your vehicle.

Don’t tailgate. You need increased stopping distance on slick road surfaces, especially at intersections. Give yourself more space between vehicles traveling ahead of you in order to avoid rear-end collisions.

Buckle up. Most crashes that occur during winter weather are caused by vehicles sliding into guardrails, off the road or into other vehicles. Wearing a seat belt protects you and your passengers from being thrown around the inside the vehicle and suffering serious injuries in a crash.

Call 911 — or #77 on a cell phone — only in case of emergency. It is essential to keep emergency dispatch lines open for those in serious need of police, fire or medical response.

Home Safety

From the city’s public utilities department, warnings about how to keep your pipes safe during the bitter cold expected on Monday morning:

Consider letting one or two water faucets drip to protect against freezing of their plumbing if your pipes are not insulated.

Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up and out of the reach of children.

Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during both the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill but you can prevent a much more costly repair job from burst pipes.

If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees.


Finally, a tip from the Suffolk News-Herald:

If you have the choice, stay off the roads. Go outside with the kids or the dogs and enjoy the snow. Snap a photo or two and share it with us on Facebook. If you do that and use the hashtag, #SuffolkVirginiaSnow2017, we’ll enter your name into a drawing for a $25 gift card.