CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When severe winter weather threatens your area, there are things you can do now to ensure you and your family are prepared for whatever conditions it may bring.
Winter storms can drop any and all combinations of snow, sleet, ice and rain to many parts of the Tar Heel state. With those conditions comes the possibility of icy roadways, mass power outages and other hazardous conditions.
“North Carolina’s winter weather can be challenging and everyone should be prepared for dangerous conditions,” Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement.
Prior to and during the weather event, residents should continually monitor conditions as they develop. The following information should also be kept in mind when listening to winter storm advisories, watches and warnings:
- Winter Storm Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for either heavy snow, sleet, or freezing rain within the next 24-48 hours.
- Winter Storm Warning is issued when confidence is high that a winter storm will cause significant impacts within the next 24 hours.
- Winter Weather Advisory is issued when wintry weather is expected and residents should exercise caution as light to moderate amounts of snow, sleet, or freezing rain are expected within the next 24 hours, causing travel difficulties.
“Make a family emergency plan, update your emergency supply kit and pay attention to weather alerts from trusted sources,” Cooper said. “These steps will help you survive inclement weather and recover faster from it.”
North Carolina Emergency Management officials encourage the following when making preparations:
- Always keep at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food and a supply of medication in your home
- Keep fresh batteries on hand for weather radios and flashlights
- Dress warmly. Wear multiple layers of thin clothing instead of a single layer of thick clothing
- Properly vent kerosene heaters and ensure any electric generators are operated outside and away from open windows or doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Never burn charcoal indoors
- Use a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio or a weather alert app on your phone to monitor changing weather conditions
- Keep alternative heating sources and fire extinguishers on hand. Be sure your family knows how to use them
- Store an emergency kit in your vehicle. Include scraper, jumper cables, tow chain, sand/salt, blankets, flashlight, first-aid kit and road map
- Make an emergency supplies kit for your pet and include medical records, first-aid kit, enough canned/dry food and water for three to seven days and pet travel bag or carrier
- Do not leave pets outside for long periods of time
- Ensure your pet has a well-fitting collar
- Bring pets inside when temperatures drop below freezing
- Move livestock and other animals to a sheltered location with food and water
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends taking steps to weather proof your home prior to the winter storm’s arrival. This includes:
- Insulating any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows
- Insulate walls and attic
- Install storm or thermal-pane windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside
- Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm
- Have the chimney or flue inspected (which should also be done annually)
- Inspect or install smoke detectors and battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors where applicable
The following steps should also be taken, according to information from the CDC, to prepare your vehicle for winter conditions:
- Have the radiator system serviced or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze as needed
- Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture
- Make sure the tires on your car have adequate tread and air pressure. Replace any worn tires and fill low tires with air to the proper pressure recommended for your car (typically between 30-35 psi)
- Keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines
- Keep your car in good working order. Be sure to check the following: heater, defroster, brakes, brake fluid, ignition, emergency flashers, exhaust, oil, and battery
While it is recommended to avoid any travel while icy roads or other hazardous conditions may exist, AAA says there are ways to help stay safe should the need to venture out arise.
- Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads
- Increase your following distance to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads will just make your wheels spin. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill
NCDOT says crews will be working as fast as possible to prepare and clear roadways, but "response times are expected to be slower than previous storms due to labor shortages impacting crews spread around the state."