Preparing for Winter Weather
Ready Georgia: Hello, and welcome to this edition of the Ready Georgia podcast series. In this episode, we’ll take a look at winter weather threats in Georgia anddiscuss tools and resources that will help individuals and families get ready.
Ready Georgia: Winter storms bring the threat of freezing rain, ice, and snow and even small amounts of snow and ice can cause severe problems for Georgia. Winter storms are most likely to occur January through March with the highest risk in February. The farther north in the state and the higher the elevation, the more likely it will be cold enough for frozen or freezing precipitation to fall and cause problems. Therefore, central and north Georgia have the highest risk of damages associated with severe winter storms. But, wherever you live in Georgia, it’s likely that you’ll encounter some form of severe weather so it’s critical that you take the necessary steps to prepare for the unexpected this season. It doesn't take a large-scale disaster to disrupt your life: even events like fallen trees, frozen pipes or gas main breaks can wreck havoc.
Ready Georgia: Our guest today is ChrissyWarrilow, meteorologist at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Chrissy has a degree in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is a member of the American Meteorological Society.
Chrissy: Hello and thanks for allowing me to share some tips on keeping you and your family out of harm’s way this winter. This year, a moderate to strong La Nina is expected to influence our weather patterns. This means that winter in Georgia will be warmer and drier than average. However, this is the overall outlook for winter – severe winter weather events can still occur in the form of cold air outbreaks and snow storms. For example, 87 of the next 90 days could be mild, with 3 days experiencing a record snow storm. We all know it takes only one event to devastate a community, and you don’t want to be caught off guard.
Chrissy: An example of a La Nina year during which Georgia experienced a snow storm is 2008. On January 16th and 17th of that year, a winter storm moved over Georgia and produced four inches of snow in Towns, White, and Union counties; it also covered many counties in metro Atlanta in over half an inch of snow. This past winter, Georgia experienced a snow storm on February 12, 2010, that dumped six inches of snow in Henry County. The storm even produced 2.5 inches of snow in Statesboro and nearly one inch in Savannah. This storm resulted in numerous road closures throughout the state, and it caused $5,000 in property damage. However, these recent snow storms pale in comparison to some historical severe winter storms.
Chrissy: On January 23, 2000, an ice storm hit Atlanta that left more than 300,000 homes and businesses without power. During the Blizzard of ’93, winds reached 50 mph, temperatures dropped into the teens, and many areas in metro Atlanta saw over a foot of snow. The Blizzard of ’93 also caused 16 deaths and 422 injuries in the state of Georgia alone, and it was responsible for $106 million in property damage and another $105.5 million in crop damage.
Chrissy: To protect yourself and your loved ones, let’s learn more about Ready Georgia’s three-step preparedness process as it relates to severe winter weather. First, Georgians need to be prepared and to prepare for winter weather, you’ll need a “Ready” or emergency supplies kit for your home and car. For your home, your kit should include items like non perishable food, water, a flash light with extra batteries, a NOAA weather radio and be sure to include supplies for any unique needs you and your family might have such as infant food and other necessary items, medications, pet supplies, etc. And during the winter months, be sure to include blankets and warm clothing – all in a water proof container that’s easily accessible in case of an emergency. And don’t forget to winterize your car. Put a portable kit there in case you need to evacuate or are caught in a storm and always make sure you have at least half a tank of gas. Also, it is important to take it easy if you are driving during a winter storm, although avoiding the roads is best – about 70% of winter-storm related injuries are due to vehicle accidents. Keep in mind that bridges and overpasses will freeze before other roadway surfaces due to the increased exposure to freezing air.
Chrissy: Next, Georgians need a plan. Remember, you and your family might not be together when disaster strikes, so make sure each member knows what to do, where to meet and how to reconnect should disaster strike. Again, be sure to consider the unique needs of your family such as elder loved ones, those with special needs and pets, etc. Also, be sure to develop a plan for different situations if your family members are at school, work, commuting, at home, etc. Have an extra emergency kit at your office in case the weather prevents you from leaving. To get started, visit READY-DOT-G-A-DOT-GOV where you can actually create a customized plan. In addition, should disaster strike, plan to stay inside and make it on your own for at least three days until help can arrive and if you have a wood burning fireplace, consider storing wood to keep you warm if winter weather knocks out your heat. If you do lose heat in your office or home, stave off the cold by closing doors to unneeded rooms; stuff towels in the cracks under doors; cover the windows, especially at night; bundle up in layers; and eat high calorie foods and drink plenty of water so that your body can continue to produce its own heat. If the storm does not knock the power out and you do have heat, continue to keep an eye heat sources such as space heaters – many home fires are caused by space heater accidents. Also, monitor the pipes in your house. Poorly insulated pipes can freeze and burst, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
Chrissy: Lastly, Georgians need to stay informed about the threats in their area. In our state, we’re most susceptible to
- Blizzard conditions, power outages
- Heavy accumulation of ice, high winds
- Fallen trees, debris in road
- Traffic related problems caused by ice storms
- Severe weather, such as thunderstorms and tornadoes, ahead of the colder weather hazards
Chrissy: So it’s important to familiarize yourself with these threats and arm yourself by knowing how to respond to each. For example, you might want to have a telework plan in place so you can continue to work if roads are closed, stockpile resources so you can shelter in place, and make sure your Ready kit is well stocked. In addition, learn the symptoms and treatments of body temperature-related conditions like hypothermia.
Chrissy: Remember, you are your own first-responder, so take the necessary steps today to ensure you and your family lower the risks associated with being unprepared for severe winter weather this year.
Ready Georgia: Thank you, Chrissy. We appreciate you sharing your expertise. For more information about staying safe this winter and to learn preparedness basics, visit Ready Georgia ready-dot-g-a-dot-gov.
Ready Georgia: We hope that you’ve enjoyed this edition of the Ready Georgia podcast.