The 2012 Winter Weather Awareness Day, which was observed last week, gives Missourians an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming winter season. Area residents are encouraged to take steps now to be better prepared for the upcoming winter season.
"Be aware of the warnings, and dress for the weather," said Cassville Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr. "Be sure your children are properly dressed when they have to be outside.
"Also have an alternate plan for housing if needed," said Kammerlohr. "Being prepared is the key to avoid further problems."
The National Weather Service issues winter storm watches 12 to 48 hours before a storm is predicted to impact an area. A watch means residents should expect severe winter weather including heavy snow, ice, blizzard conditions and dangerous wind chills.
A warning is issued when significant and possibly life-threatening severe winter weather will occur within 12 to 18 hours. Ice storm warnings indicate that ice accumulations is expected to be one-quarter of an inch or more. The National Weather Service will also issue warnings for blizzards, high winds and wind chills.
Winter weather advisories are issued when winter events could cause significant inconvenience, but are probably not life-threatening. In addition to general winter weather, advisories are issued for wind chills, freezing rain, wind and dense fog.
Missourians should create a family emergency plan and emergency kit with bottled water and food that can be prepared without cooking in case of a power outage. Kits should also include a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, a manual can opener and a first aid kit.
Residents are also encouraged to secure an alternate fuel source, such as firewood or a generator. Fireplaces and generators should be inspected prior to the winter weather season. Residents should ensure that they have fuel for generators, which should only be used outdoors.
Winter storms are considered deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Around 70 percent of deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles. One-quarter of those deaths are people who are caught out in the storm.
The National Weather Service reminds drivers to maintain at least a half tank of gas in all vehicles, and place a winter emergency kit in each car.
Kits should include: a shovel; a windshield scraper and small broom; a flashlight; a battery powered radio; extra batteries; water; snack foods; matches; extra hats, socks and mittens; a first aid kit with a pocket knife; necessary medications; blankets; tow chain or rope; road salt and sand; booster cables; emergency flares; and a fluorescent distress flag.
During winter weather, individuals should drive only when absolutely necessary. Travel during the day and never travel alone. Keep family members informed of driving routes and schedules. Drivers should also stay on main roads and avoid shortcuts.
Kammerlohr reminds residents that pets are also impacted by winter weather and extremely cold temperatures.
"Provide proper care for animals that have to be out in the bad weather," said Kammerlohr. "Animals need proper shelter, wind breaks, fresh food and water."
The annual Winter Weather Awareness Day is promoted by National Weather Service, emergency management agencies, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.