How to stay safe during a winter storm

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Richmond Road in Norge (Nicole Trifone/WYDaily)
Richmond Road in Norge blanketed in snow. (WYDaily file photo)

As a severe winter storm approaches Hampton Roads that could bring between six and twelve inches of snowfall, local companies, police and governments are providing residents with tips to stay safe this weekend.

The National Weather Service issued a severe weather alert Thursday stating that driving conditions will likely be hazardous due to snow and sleet.

“If it gets bad enough, just stay off the roads,” Lt. Dennis Ivey of the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office said in a phone interview Friday. “Make sure you have the supplies to last a couple days.”

In a press release Thursday, the Virginia Department of Transportation advised motorists to monitor road conditions and avoid driving on snow-covered roads. Residents can find the latest road conditions on VDOT’S website or by calling 1-800-FOR-ROADS. According to VDOT’s website, 70 percent of snow-related deaths occur in automobiles.

VDOT’s Hampton Roads District will be pre-treating roads Friday to help prevent ice from bonding to the surface, according to a separate press release. 

However, even after treatment roads can still be slippery and hazardous after snowfall begins, especially under freezing conditions. 

According to the National Weather Service, freezing temperatures could remain in the region after the winter storm has passed, and that could mean roads could remain hazardous into Sunday and early next week.

Dominion Power shared power outage tips on its website. Dominion recommends making sure important electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops and tablets remain fully charged in advance of potential outages during winter storms. Dominion also advised buying surge protectors to protect expensive appliances and devices, and unplugging any devices that aren’t surge-protected.

Projected snowfall map. (Courtesy National Weather Service)
Projected snowfall map. (Courtesy National Weather Service)

Dominion also compiled a list of emergency supplies residents should have in their home in the event of a prolonged power outage and impassable roads. Supplies should include one gallon of water per person per day, a three-day supply of non-perishable food, flashlights, blankets, garbage bags, batteries, a first aid kit and a radio for emergency alerts. Refilling prescription medication before a storm is also recommended.

Dominion maintains an interactive online outage map for its customers to monitor at any time, including major storms. 

James City County’s website advises its citizens to be cognizant of the threat of winter fires. According to a county release, more house fires occur during the winter than any other season. 

The notice advises homeowners to provide three feet of empty space around space heaters and fireplaces in homes. The county’s website recommends disconnecting heating devices before leaving a room, plugging only one heating device into each electrical outlet, and avoiding using extension cords to power heating devices.

“With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in an announcement to press Friday. “Please check on neighbors, especially the elderly and those who are unable to leave their homes, as well as family and friends to ensure they are ready for this storm and any possible inconveniences or interruptions that may result.”

The governor’s office released the following safety tips:

  • Stay off the roads during the storm unless travel is absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, drive with caution and allow extra space around other vehicles. Let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you expect to arrive so that if something happens while traveling, someone knows where to send assistance.
  • Use extreme caution around slow-moving equipment being used to treat roads, such as snow plows.
  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter and is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Include items such as jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit, water, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, shovel, flashlight and batteries, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
  • Bring pets inside from the cold.
  • If you have power-dependent medical equipment, make sure all batteries and extra batteries are fully charged. Know where to go if you lose power during or after the storm. If you aren’t sure where to go, dial 2-1-1 for a list of shelters or charging stations that may be open in your area.
  • Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours, in case roads are blocked and/or there are power outages.
  • Have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries for emergency information. Listen to local weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
  • If you need help, information or resources during the storm, call 2-1-1. Those with hearing impairments can call 7-1-1 for the Virginia Relay Center and then call 1-800-230-6977. Out of state or videophone users may also dial 1-800-230-6977 for assistance.

For more resources, download the free Ready Virginia mobile app here and download the free VDOT 511 mobile app for updates on road conditions here.