In addition to frigid temperatures and snow and ice, winter brings dangerous driving conditions and the potential for damaging and deadly storms. That’s why the National Weather Service, the State Emergency Management Agency and Missouri’s local emergency managers are teaming up to promote Nov. 15-19 as Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Missouri.
“Most Missourians have experienced frigid temperatures and icy road conditions, but many do not take the steps to prepare so they don’t wind up getting stranded in the cold,” State Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Remillard said. “By designating Nov. 15-19 as Winter Weather Preparedness Week, we’re encouraging everyone to prioritize safety this winter and reminding all Missourians to prepare in advance of severe storms – while on the road and at home.”
In 2020, there were more than 5,500 vehicle crashes in Missouri in which snow or ice were factors, which resulted in 1,698 injuries and 26 deaths, according to preliminary results provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Even if not directly involved in a crash, an accident blocking the roadway could cause other drivers to be stranded for hours. Avoiding non-essential travel during winter storms is one of the best ways to reduce the chance of becoming involved in a crash or becoming stranded. It also allows snow removal crews to clear the roads faster and first responders to get to crashes more quickly.
Missourians should also consider these winter weather preparations and be ready to take necessary actions during inclement weather to keep their families safe.
Create a family emergency plan and an emergency kit. Emergency supplies should include bottled water, canned and dry foods, battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, manual can opener and a first-aid kit. When power outages are possible, charge cell phones and other devices in advance so you are able to communicate if power is lost.
Assemble a separate vehicle winter emergency kit. Include a blanket, radio with spare batteries, snacks or energy-type food, jumper cables, flares, shovel and sand or shingles to give tires traction.
Avoid driving whenever possible when conditions are poor. Postpone travel if possible. If driving is necessary, make sure an emergency kit is in the vehicle, that your gas tank is more than half full, cell phones are charged and emergency numbers are saved for fast dialing. Check on road conditions in advance on the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Traveler Info Map: http://traveler.modot.org/map/. Allow extra time, expect delays, reduce speed and increase following distance. Always drive based on conditions, NOT the posted speed limit. If your vehicle breaks down or slides off the road, stay with your vehicle and call or wait for help.
Make sure alternate heat and power sources, such as fireplaces, woodstoves, kerosene heaters and generators function properly. These sources can be dangerous and must be maintained and operated. Keep the correct fuel for each source on hand in a safe location. Proper ventilation is essential. Properly install carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home. Only operate generators outdoors.
Remember space heaters are dangerous and potentially deadly when misused. Space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires and 80 percent of home heating fire deaths annually. These devices are supplemental heating sources and should be turned off when leaving a room or going to bed. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from heating equipment. Never overload extension cords or electrical outlets. Spaces heaters should never be used in place of a primary heating system.
Know the risks of exposure to cold temperatures. In 2020, 41 people reportedly died as a result of low body temperatures due to prolonged exposure to cold weather, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Protect against frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting clothing in several layers. Avoid alcohol, limit time spent outdoors in frigid temperatures and stay indoors, if possible. Find the nearest warming center at the DHSS website: https://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/hypothermia/
Find more winter weather information including safe winter driving techniques, avoiding injury when shoveling and other tips at https://www.mo.gov/winter-weather-safety/.
Please contact your local NWS office for interviews about Winter Weather Preparedness Week or for additional information:
St. Louis: (636) 441-8467
Kansas City: (816) 540-6021
Springfield: (417) 869-4491
Paducah, Ky.: (270) 744-6440
Memphis, Tenn.: (901) 544-0401
Davenport, Iowa: (563) 388-0672
This article originally appeared on Lake Sun Leader: Missourians are reminded to prepare for cold temperatures and potentially dangerous weather this winter