Hopefully, “polar vortex” and “arctic blast” will be erased from our vocabulary this winter. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), this winter’s buzz term will be “El Niño.”
El Niño is a large-scale, ocean-atmosphere climate interaction that causes a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the Pacific. This winter, Ohio could see warmer-than-average temperatures, but cold air outbreaks and snow storms will still likely occur.
To help Ohioans prepare for this year’s cold season, the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA) has been promoting measures to take before the winter temperatures arrive.
Ohioans are being encouraged to update their safety plans, replenish their disaster supply kit, and prepare themselves and their property for winter-related incidents.
“Check the expiration dates on your nonperishable food. Stock up on bottled water. Refresh supplies in your first aid kits. Ensure you have jumper cables and supplies in your car,” said Sima Merick, executive director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. “Make sure your vehicle is road-ready and winterized. And don’t forget to check the batteries in your flashlights, radios and smoke detectors.”
When the weather is bad, driving can get pretty hectic. Before getting on the road, it’s best to know before you go. Pay attention to weather forecasts and traffic reports. Listen for reports of school and business closings, snow emergencies, traffic delays or road closures. Plan your drive time accordingly.
To help prepare for winter, OCSWA recommends the following:
Preparing a home for winter
Cut and remove low-hanging and dead tree branches. Ice, snow and strong winds can cause tree limbs to break and fall. Have your gutters cleaned. Snow and ice can build up quickly if gutters are clogged with debris. Have auxiliary heaters, furnaces and fireplaces maintenance checked or serviced before using. If using a portable generator, read instructions thoroughly to guard against carbon monoxide poisoning. Review your homeowner’s insurance policy; talk with your insurance agent about the financial risks that winter can bring. Consider purchasing flood insurance.
Prepare winter disaster kits for the home and vehicle
Refresh stored nonperishable foods and bottled water. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and radios. Winter emergency kits should include warm clothing, blankets, flashlights, new batteries, coats, hats, gloves, a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio, first aid kit, and enough nonperishable food and water (one gallon per person, per day) to sustain every family member for several days. Have stored food, bottled water and supplies for your pets, as well.
Invest in a NOAA public alert/weather radio
Every home, school and business should have a tone-alert weather radio with a battery back-up. Weather and public alert radios are programmed to automatically sound an alert during public safety and severe weather events. Click on www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/ for additional information.
Updating disaster preparedness plans
Every home, school, and business should have written plans for the different types of disasters that can occur. Review the plans with the entire family or staff. Everyone should know what to do in the event of a snow or ice storm, a prolonged power outage, a flood or fire. Post contact information for your local emergency management agency. Prepare and practice drills that require sheltering in place and evacuation. Update your emergency contact list and establish a meeting place outside of the home, school or business, where others will know where to find or meet you.
OCSWA is an advocate for emergency preparedness and is comprised of representatives from the following: American Red Cross; Emergency Management Association of Ohio; National Weather Service; Ohio Citizen Corps; Ohio Department of Public Safety — Emergency Management Agency; Ohio Insurance Institute; Ohio Department of Commerce — State Fire Marshal; Ohio Departments of Aging, Education, Health, Insurance, Mental Health & Addiction Services, Natural Resources, and Transportation; NBC4 (WCMH) and WBNS-10TV.