Another winter storm to hit South Hill Thursday morning; tips on how to prepare

Last weekend’s winter storm Tabitha left thousands of Virginians without power. Many are still without electricity as crews continue to work on downed power lines and blown transformers. Unfortunately there is another winter storm predicted to hit Mecklenburg and many surrounding areas on Thursday morning.

WRIC Meteorologist Matt DiNardo has predicted a mix of freezing rain, sleet, and rain to begin at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning and continue until 4 p.m. The South Hill area is predicted to accumulate ½” to ¾” of ice. “Unfortunately, those that were hit so hard last Thursday and then Saturday will be hit the hardest.” Freezing rain is expected to change to rain later on Thursday.

The South Hill Volunteer Fire Department is working hard to prepare for the next round of damaging ice. Fire Chief Michael Vaughn says that the department’s main objectives are:

  • Provide for the safety & welfare of all emergency service personnel throughout the event.
  • Provide for the safety & welfare of citizens and folks visiting the Mecklenburg County throughout the event.
  • Mitigate all fire incidents occurring within Mecklenburg County.
  • Provide assistance to all EMS and Law Enforcement personnel during the event in need.
  • Attempt to keep our roads passable to allow folks seeing medical treatment or supplies the ability to safely reach their destinations.  

“Our members are preparing apparatus’, tools, and PPE to handle the next ice storm. We are adding additional supplies to keep our first responders hydrated and fueled to be able to respond to any incident. We are picking up additional fuel for our personal equipment and adding additional safety equipment,” says Vaughn.

Chief Vaughn also shared a few tips for the public to help prepare them for the severe winter weather.

Weatherproof your home.

  • Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Insulate walls and attic.
  • Install storm or thermal-pane windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm.

Have your chimney or flue inspected each year.

If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year. Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector or find one online.

Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector.

  • If you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
  • Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside.
  • Each winter season have your furnace system and vent checked by a qualified technician to ensure they are functioning properly.

For older adults, keep an easy-to-read thermometer inside your home.

If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. Our ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age. Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.

Create an emergency car kit.

It is best to avoid traveling, but if travel is necessary for medical treatment.  

  • Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
  • Items to stay warm such as extra hats, coats, mittens, and blankets
  • Windshield scraper
  • Shovel
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Water and snack food
  • First aid kit with any necessary medications and a pocket knife
  • Tow chains or rope
  • Canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair
  • Cat litter or sand to help tires get traction, or road salt to melt ice
  • Booster cables with fully charged battery or jumper cables
  • Hazard or other reflectors
  • Bright colored flag or help signs, emergency distress flag, and/or emergency flares
  • Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water

Bring your pets indoors.

If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water. 

GENERATOR SAFETY

General Safety and Usage Guidelines for Backup Generators

  • Be sure to use your generator correctly. Using a generator incorrectly can lead to dangerous situations:
    1. Carbon monoxide poisoning from engine exhaust. Even if you can’t smell exhaust fumes, you may still have been exposed to carbon monoxide. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get fresh air right away. If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Consider installing battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and take proper precautions.
    2. Electric shock or electrocution.
    3. Fire.

Use a portable generator only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment. 

  • Position generators outdoors and well away from any structure. Running a generator inside any enclosed or partially enclosed structure can lead to dangerous and often fatal levels of carbon monoxide. Keep generators positioned outside and at least 15 feet away from open windows so exhaust does not enter your home/business or a neighboring home/business.
  • Keep the generator dry. Operate your generator on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure and make sure your hands are dry before touching the generator. Do not use the generator in rainy or wet conditions.
  • Disconnect the power coming into your home/business. Before you operate your generator, disconnect your normal source of power. Otherwise, power from your generator could be sent back into the utility company lines, creating a hazardous situation for utility workers.
  • Make sure your generator is properly grounded. Grounding generators can help prevent shocks and electrocutions. Refer to OSHA guidelines for grounding requirements for portable generators. 
  • Plug equipment directly into the generator. Use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords that are in good working condition and have a wire gauge that can handle the electric load of any connected appliances.
  • DO NOT plug the generator into a wall outlet. NEVER try to power your house/business by plugging the generator into a wall outlet or the main electrical panel. Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electrical panel by installing the proper equipment according to local electrical codes. Make sure the electrician installs an approved automatic transfer switch so you can disconnect your home’s wiring from the utility system before you use the generator.
  • Maintain an adequate supply of fuel. Know your generator’s rate of fuel consumption at various power output levels. Carefully consider how much fuel you can safely store and for how long. Gasoline and diesel fuel stored for long periods may need added chemicals to keep them safe to use. Check with your supplier for recommendations. Store all fuels in specifically designed containers in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, away from all potential heat sources.
  • Turn the generator off and let it cool before refueling. Use the type of fuel recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Inspect and maintain your generator regularly. Check aboveground storage tanks, pipes, and valves regularly for cracks and leaks, and replace damaged materials immediately. Tanks may require a permit or have to meet other regulatory requirements. Purchase a maintenance contract and schedule at least one maintenance service per year, such as at the beginning of every hurricane season. Keep fresh fuel in the tank, and run the generator periodically to ensure it will be ready when you need it.