Here are ways to best navigate a winter storm and the aftermath.
Take care traveling
- Bridges and overpasses freeze first and melt last. Be careful driving over them, according to AAA Tidewater.
- Major roads will get plowed first. Stay off the road so plows can work, and be careful on residential roads that may not be plowed, says the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
- Increase following distance to at least 10 seconds, says AAA Tidewater. Also, accelerate and brake slowly, drive in cleared lanes and don’t use cruise control.
- To check road conditions, call 511 or check 511virginia.org.
- Bring your pets inside and make sure they have enough food and unfrozen water, according to the Red Cross.
- Talk to your family about emergency plans and write down medical information, says the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
- Be aware of the wind-chill factor, and make sure to remove wet clothing immediately, says the Department of Health. Also, dress warmly when going outside to shovel snow or remove debris, wear eye goggles when cleaning up debris and work in teams to lift big objects, or get a professional’s help to remove fallen trees.
Conserve energy, keep home warm
- To keep energy bills down, keep the thermostat at 68 degrees and weatherstrip doors and windows. Seal air leaks, change air and furnace filters and unplug equipment, according to Dominion Energy.
- Lower the water heater to 120-125 degrees, according to Dominion Energy. Insulate water pipes and add an insulation blanket to the water heater.
- If you have a generator, have a qualified electrician install it and keep it outside.
- To report an outage, go to dominionenergy.com or call 866-DOM-HELP.
- Keep your natural gas meter visible and clear of snow and ice. Try to use a broom instead of a shovel to clear snow away from the meter, says Columbia Gas.
- If there is a problem with your natural gas heater or if it’s encased in ice, call Columbia Gas’ emergency line at 800-544-5606.
Here are some tips from the Virginia Department of Health:
- Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from other objects and turn them off before going to bed. Don’t heat your home with an oven or gas range.
- Plug space heaters into the wall, not an extension cord or surge protector box.
- Avoid using candles during power outages.
- Check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep a dry chemical fire extinguisher handy.
- Make sure chimneys and flues are clean.
- Carbon monoxide can be emitted from grills or generators that aren’t properly vented. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning usually resemble flu-like symptoms.
- Turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse if there’s snow or water near electrical circuits or equipment. Don’t touch downed power lines.
- Keep water dripping through pipes to prevent frozen pipes and find your private shut-off valve so you can turn your water off the pipes freeze and burst.
- Contact the utility company to ask about shielding a power line before trying to work near a downed line.
Need a place to stay?
- In Newport News, People Offering Resources Together (PORT) helps homeless people in the city with lodging and food. This week, the shelter will be at St. Jerome Catholic Church at 116 Denbigh Blvd. to host people for a week starting Wednesday night. Anyone who needs a ride is encouraged to call the Newport News Police Department’s non-emergency phone number at 757-247-2500, according to PORT.
- In Hampton, the Hampton Roads Ecumenical Lodging and Provisions’s winter shelter program A Nights Welcome provides homeless people with shelter, dinner and breakfast. This week, the shelter will be at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church at 99 E. Mercury Blvd. from Wednesday until Sunday. Anyone who needs immediate help can call the Housing Crisis Hotline at 757-587-4202, according to a news release from the city.
Have an emergency kit
An emergency kit should include three days worth of food and water (one gallon of water per person, per day); flashlights and batteries; cash and copies of important family documents; a first-aid kit that includes prescription medicine and extra contract lenses or glasses; snow shovel, ice scraper, abrasive material such as cat litter and paper towels for the car; blankets; and items for an infant or toddler, if you have one, including diapers, formula, bottles, toys and wash cloths, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Mishkin can be reached by phone at 757-641-6669. Follow her on Twitter at @KateMishkin.