The colder than average winter meteorologist are predicting for parts of the South, including the Texas Panhandle, is just around the corner. In fact, they’re predicting snow next week. You can thank El Niño for that. About 10 years ago, ice and snow storms tag-teamed Moore County, bringing down large tree branches and power lines and disrupting travel. Winter storms in the Panhandle have shut down cities, so the Moore County Emergency Management wants you to be prepared and has prepared this advisory. Don’t be caught off guard. Some of it might sound like it’s common sense, and it is, but people die each year by not making common sense decisions. Forbes magazine reports that every year, 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States are sickened by accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and about 500 people die, many in their own home, from not following the tips provided here. So follow them, and be safe.

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Winter Storm Emergency Supplies and Tips

Emergency supplies for a winter storm are similar to supplies needed in any emergency — but there are some additional items. These include kitty litter or sand to keep sidewalks and steps clear of ice, a windshield scraper for the car, warm clothes and extra blankets. Remember, in a severe ice storm, lines may be down and power could be out for a week or more.

Make sure you have the following basic emergency supplies on hand in preparation for a winter weather event:

  • One week supply of nonperishable food, one gallon of bottled water per person per day, coolers for food and ice storage
  • Credit cards and cash (banks and ATMs may not have power)
  • Battery-operated radio, NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries or hand crank radio, cell phones and chargers
  • First Aid kit, seven day supply of prescription medications, copies of prescriptions, special medical items, hearing aids and batteries and eyeglasses
  • Manual can opener, knife, tools, booster cables, fire extinguisher, duct tape, tarp, rope, flashlight with extra batteries
  • Supplies for babies, the elderly, family members with special health care needs, and food and supplies for pets

Remember, animals are particularly vulnerable to extreme outdoor elements. DO NOT leave your pets exposed to the cold during a winter weather event. If you have outdoor pets, ensure they are properly protected from the cold by bringing them indoors or providing other adequate shelter.

If heavy ice on power lines cuts utility service, do not get close to downed power lines. Call 911. Be extremely careful using generators or gas-powered equipment. Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless and deadly. It can build up in a matter of minutes. Do not use generators, charcoal grills or gas grills inside the house, garage or enclosed space. Do not try to heat the house using a gas range or oven.

Winter Weather Vehicle Safety

When winter storms threaten, monitor broadcast media and NOAA Weather Radio for up-to-date information before getting on the roads. You can also monitor road conditions by visiting www.drivetexas.org or calling 800-452-9292. Do not call 911 for road conditions; 911 is for emergencies only.

Always keep your gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. On icy roads, drive slowly and increase distance required for stopping. Watch for downed trees and power lines across roads. If power is out, treat all intersections as four-way stops.

Keep the following emergency supplies in your vehicle in case you encounter winter weather on the road:

  • Blankets/sleeping bags and extra clothing, mittens and hat
  • Cell phone, radio, flashlight, extra blankets
  • First-aid kit and pocket knife
  • High calorie, nonperishable food and bottled water
  • Tool kit, booster cables, tow rope and shovel
  • Do not go around barricades. It is a Class B Misdemeanor, and you could be fined and/or up to 180 days in jail.

After The Storm

When sever winter and ice storms strike Texas, the power may be out for several days. Here are some safety tips for keeping you and your family safe as you wait for power to be restored:

  • Never operate generators and other fuel-powered devices inside a home or an enclosed space, such as a garage. Unsafe practices could result in a build-up of deadly carbon monoxide fumes. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. If anyone in your home experiences these symptoms, step outdoors, ventilate the area and call 911.
  • Report power outages. Turn off electrical appliances that were operating at the time power went off, including your heating system. Leave one light on to alert you when service is restored.
  • Power lines weighted with ice may be down or touching other objects, an extremely dangerous situation. Contact with power lines can charge cables, chain link fences and even tree limbs with electricity. Power lines can electrify a fence throughout an entire neighborhood. Contact your power company for assistance.
  • Many people are injured each year by falling tree branches after any kind of severe storm. Ice storms are no exception. Heavy ice can make tree limbs and trees themselves unstable. Be safe. Wait until the thaw and call a tree care specialist.
  • Refrain from driving on icy roads. If you must travel, drive slowly and increase your stopping distance. Watch for downed trees and power lines across roads.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and be cautious with fire. Keep candle flames at least 3 feet away from cardboard, wood and other combustible objects. Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets, and extinguish flames before leaving a room or falling asleep.

Keep in mind that just because the Panhandle isn’t hit by major winter storms every year, it takes only one to catch you off guard. Be prepared. You’ll also want information during a storm, and you can monitor one of several news providers.

Be prepared and stay safe.