Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow lasting several days.
Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet, and freezing rain. Regardless of the severity of a winter storm, it is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes. Wednesday, Dec. 21 marks the first day of winter, the Department of Emergency Services encourages residents to take steps to ensure a safe season.
- Winterize your home by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows. This includes structures for livestock and pets.
- Clear rain gutters. Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
- Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
- Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year. Have sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
- Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
- Ensure antifreeze levels are sufficient to avoid freezing.
- Check your battery and ignition system. It should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
- Keep a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Ensure heater and defroster work properly.
- Check oil for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal faster at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
- Repair any problems with wiper equipment and maintain proper washer fluid level.
- Make sure tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions.
- Prepare an emergency kit including: shovel, windshield scraper, flashlight, blanket, tow rope, booster cables, emergency flares, and rock salt.
The National Weather Service urges residents to keep abreast of local forecasts and warnings and familiarize themselves with key weather terminology.
- Frost/Freeze Warning – Below freezing temperatures are expected.
- Freezing Rain – Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice.
- Sleet – Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground causing roads to freeze and become slippery.
- Winter Weather Advisory – Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous.
- Winter Storm Watch – A winter storm is possible in your area.
- 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.
For additional information on winter weather and safety tips, visit: www.ready.gov/winter-weather.
Severe weather notices are posted on the Charles County Government website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Weather updates are also aired on CCGTV, which broadcasts on Comcast channel 95 and Verizon channel 10. Sign up for the Citizen Notification System (CNS) to receive inclement weather and traffic alerts by text message, email, or phone. For information on power outages, view the SMECO outage map. Call to report a power outage. Call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.