Prepare now for severe winter weather events
With some of the nasty, sticky, cold, white stuff forecast for next week, it's time for area residents to take stock of their pantries and winter weather supplies in preparation for what could be the first significant snow storm for the area.
Winter storms can range from a moderate snowfall to the wind-driven icy sleet and freezing rain, reminiscent of the 2007 ice storm that sent area residents slipping and sliding to the nearest retail store for food and supplies.
Heavily iced power lines can knock out communications and utility services for hours or days, and as is the case in the northeastern part of the United States, immobilize entire regions.
"As we know, weather in the Ozarks can be very fickle," said David Compton, director of the Barry County Office of Emergency Management. "Area residents should have emergency kits packed and ready to go, both at home and in their vehicles."
Kits should include enough non-perishable food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantities to last each person in the household a minimum of 72 hours.
Food items should include ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener; protein or fruit bars; dry cereal or granola; peanut butter; dried fruit; nuts; crackers; canned or boxed juices; non-perishable pasteurized milk; high energy foods; vitamins; food for infants; and comfort or stress foods.
Kits should contain at least one gallon of water per person per day just for drinking water, or three gallons per person for the recommended 72-hour duration.
Kits should also contain:
* Battery-powered or hand cranked radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.
* Flashlight with extra batteries.
* First aid kit.
* Whistle to signal for help.
* Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation in the event utilities are out.
* Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities if necessary.
* Manual can opener for food.
* Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.
* Medications for family members and pets that may be sheltering inside.
* Enough pet food and supplies for the recommended 72-hour duration.
In addition to heavy blankets or sleeping bags, each person should have a winter jacket or coat, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. Clothing should be worn in layers and adjusted according to the temperature.
Those with homes powered by electricity, a back-up plan is necessary to provide heat in the event the utilities are cut off for an extended period of time.
Area residents are cautioned to take care when shoveling snow.
"Overexertion can bring on a heart attack," Compton said. "Other things to watch for are signs of frostbite, hypothermia and slip and falls on ice walkways."
Compton said when roads have heavy accumulation, to restrict travel and keep others informed of expected arrival times as well as planned routes of travel.
"Alternate heating sources such as generators and kerosene heaters should be used with care," Compton said. "Generators should not be used inside the home or garage, due to the hazardous buildup of carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that is both odorless and tasteless."
Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include: headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue and a feeling of weakness.
Both propane and kerosene heaters provide portable heat for taking the chill out of a single room. They are not meant for whole-household use.
Heaters should not be placed near flammable materials, such as bed clothing or drapery. Heaters should be allowed to cool completely before adding additional fuel to prevent the possibility of explosion.
Children and pets should be kept away from space heaters in order to prevent them from accidentally getting burned.
Newer heaters are equipped with sensors that automatically shut the unit off if oxygen levels in the home fall too low. For those with heaters lacking the sensor, a window should be cracked open one inch to allow fresh air to circulate inside the home.
For more information on winter weather or disaster preparedness, pick up a copy of the brochure "Ready in 3," available in English and Spanish at the Monett Justice Center, located at 1901 E Cleveland Ave., or visit http://health.mo.gov/emergencies/readyin3/plan.php.