Tips for preparing for winter weather

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

By Melonie Roberts

They say if you don't like the weather in the Ozarks, wait a minute and it will change. That old adage is especially true in the late fall and early winter here in southwest Missouri.

As most people have experienced one can go to bed in the evening with the sounds of crisp, brown leaves scraping along the asphalt outside their windows and awake to a snow-covered and silent pristine winter wonderland.

Along with that glittery white abundance comes the questions: How do I get out of my driveway and into work? How much food is in the house? Is there any cat food left?

"While students may love an unexpected snow day off from school, adults are more concerned with providing for their families, pets and livestock when a winter weather event strikes," said David Compton, director of the Barry County Office of Emergency Management. "Winter weather preparedness is much the same as any other disaster. People should have a 72-hour kit in the event that snow cover exceeds the capabilities of road and electric crews."

While many of the supplies needed in a 72-hour kit for a winter event are the same as a disaster that takes place in July, there are a few additional needs when dealing with snow, ice or rain.

"Every kit should have one gallon of water per person per day," Compton said, "along with enough food, medicines, child and pet care needs for up to three days.

"However, in winter, people will also need to plan for their vehicles and have de-icer, a snow shovel, sand or kitty litter, jumper cables and emergency beacons in the event someone is stranded alongside the road," Compton continued. "There should also be enough clothing or a blanket in case the person is stranded for more than a few hours."

Earlier this year, travelers were stranded for three days by a sudden storm that swept the east coast. Traffic was at a standstill on several of the nation's arteries of interstates and major roadways while traffic crews struggled to clear over 50 inches of snow. The storm even caused the shut down of the federal government.

"We have never, in my recollection, had an incident level that severe," Compton said, "but we have had extended power outages due to heavy ice accumulation on power lines."

Compton cautions residents not to burn charcoal or other fuels not approved for indoor use during power outages.

"Fumes from unapproved fuel sources can prove fatal," Compton said. "The Barry County Office of Emergency Management will open several warming stations across the county in the event of massive and extended power outages."

Compton also said area residents should stock a minimum three-day supply of ready-to-eat foods that require no heat or cooking.

"Those can include canned meats, soups, cereals and energy bars, along with heater meals that are now available at retail outlets," Compton said.

Other household items to have on hand include: flashlights, a battery-powered radio, a cell phone, sanitation items, disposable dishes and flatware and a basic first aid kit.

"If young children are among those sheltering in place, it would be ideal for parents to include some card games, coloring books or other activities to keep them distracted from long hours without television and electronic games," Compton said.

Livestock have specific needs during severe winter weather events, including a water source and adequate food supply. Compton recommends providing animals with more food than usual, including extra roughage to get them through the cold nights.

Ensure an adequate and dependable water source. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal to protect the animal's tongue.

Keep pets and smaller animals indoors when the temperature drops below freezing.

Keep de-icing products and other winter chemicals away from animals; clean contaminated paws as needed.

Consider a wind- or water- proof blanket for horses who live outdoors full-time; smaller livestock, such as goats, may also benefit from a blanket or coat.

Provide a windbreak for animals that stay in a field or pasture. A windbreak can be a large portion of brush or a manmade shelter that will allow them to get behind and guard themselves from bitterly cold winds.

"By using some basic principles of emergency preparedness, area residents can ride out pretty much anything, whether it's a natural or manmade disaster," Compton said. "One thing we stress is self-reliance, because in many cases, outside resources can't be mobilized for several hours.

"Being prepared is the key to riding out what forecasters are predicting to be another brutally cold and snowy winter in the Ozarks," Compton said.

More information on disaster preparedness may be found on the Internet at

Winter weather warning terms

By Melonie Roberts

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a winter storm hazard:

* Freezing Rain -- Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.

* Sleet -- Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.

* Winter Storm Watch -- A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for more information.

* Winter Storm Warning -- A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.

* Blizzard Warning --Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.

* Frost/Freeze Warning -- Below freezing temperatures are expected.

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