After the Storm, a Winter Freeze: Stay Safe
January 21, 2011
Maine is again in the grips of a major snowstorm. And the National Weather Service is predicting frigid temperatures will move in after the storm, and stay for several days.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) urges all Mainers stay safe during the storm, then bundle up, and make sure they are heating their homes safely.
Today's storm will bring anywhere from 3 to 14 inches of snow, with the heaviest amounts predicted for downeast section. There will be periods of intense snow, which will hamper visibility. The safety tips by now should be familiar:
- Monitor weather forecasts closely for expected conditions in your area. All National Weather Service weather warnings are available on MEMA's web site.
- Use extreme care driving during the storm, and as clean-up progresses. Stay off the roads if possible.
- If the power goes out, use generators and alternate heat sources safely. Never run a generator in a basement or attached garage. Carbon monoxide poisoning may result.
- Continue to keep roofs clear of snow. With several storms recently, snow and ice may be piling up putting dangerous weight on the roof.
- Make sure heating system vents are clear also, to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up in the home.
- Protect outside oil tanks from snow and ice falling from the roof. Serious oil spills can result.
- Check on neighbors, family and friends who may need special assistance to clear snow and ice and to weather the storm.
After the storm, intense cold will chill down the state. These are dangerously cold temperatures, which may be made worse by wind chill.
Stay safe as you stay warm. Remember especially to check on neighbors, friends and relatives who may need help staying warm.
- Keep clothing and other combustibles away from space heaters and wood stoves. It doesn't take long for old newspapers to catch on fire and destroy your home.
- Eating and dressing properly helps provide natural warmth. Well-balanced meals help the body produce its own heat. Several thin layers of clothing provide increased protection. Drink warm fluids and avoid drinking alcohol.
- If you use a kerosene or other alternative heater, follow all the maker's instructions, including venting the room properly.
- If you use a wood stove, burn clean, dry hardwood if possible. If you must burn wet wood run an open draft and check for creosote build-up frequently. If you burn soft wood take precautions not to overheat the stove, smoke pipe or chimney. Monitor the fire closely.
- Again, remember to check on older or ill neighbors and friends to make sure they are warm and safe.
If you must go outside:
- Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Layering clothes will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other. A hat keeps you warm because half of your body heat loss is from the head.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extremely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
- Go inside often for warm-up breaks. If you start to shiver a lot or get very tired, or if your nose, fingers, toes, or earlobes start to feel numb or turn very pale, go inside right away.
To try to prevent pipes from freezing:
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
- Run water through the pipe at a trickle. The temperature of the water running through it is above freezing and helps keep the pipe open.
If you are trying to thaw frozen pipes:
- Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, and electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. Besides the fire danger, a blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode.
For many more winter safety and preparedness tips, visit Maine Prepares.