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Be Prepared: Strong Winter Storms Coming

January 16, 2010

A series of strong winter storms is lined up to hit Northern California during the next few days. It is essential that families be prepared to cope with whatever nature brings.

While most winter storms pass rather quickly, sometimes they bring major challenges

Every family and home should be prepared to handle a local disaster and have the resources to survive at least three days without services. Every family needs a readiness plan, and should teach their children what to do. A plan to call a particular family member who lives outside the area can be especially helpful since family members are often separated due to work, school and other activities.

“From our homes along the valley floor to the crest of Sierra, we see our share of strong winter storms - and we should expect and prepare for them," said Rui Cunha, Program Manager for the Placer County Office of Emergency Services. "Storms sometimes bring heavy snow, significant power outages, high winds, downed trees, localized stream flooding, back-country avalanches and other challenges. The effects of particular storms can be tough to predict, but it is important that resident be ready for whatever happens. Preparedness and planning also bring peace of mind."

Before the next storm hits, here’s a few hints to help prepare:

  • Buy and store an extra supply of drinking water. One gallon a day per person;
  • Have a 3-day supply of ready-to-eat nonperishable foods; a can opener, matches, knife, foil and plastic bags. Do NOT use outdoor cooking devices, such as barbecues;
  • Buy extra batteries and/or flashlights;
  • Before a storm hits, clear rain gutters, repair roof leaks and cut away branches that could fall on your house or other structures during a storm. (Don’t do these chores in the middle of a storm!);
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher? Do all family members know how to use it?
  • Pack a bag with medications, first-aid supplies, blankets, warm shoes and clothing, rain gear, toiletries and personal items, household tools, list of important phone numbers, and games/toys for the kids;
  • Plan ahead of time how you will handle your pets; food and water for pets and livestock;
  • Have a battery-operated TV or radio on hand;
  • Check what you have lying around outside. Will a strong wind blow it away or cause damage?;
  • Know the location and how to turn off water, power, propane and gas coming into your house;
  • Winterize your car. Keep half a tank of gas in the car, good tires and keep tools such as a shovel or scraper. Keep blankets in the car. If you are driving to the Sierra, make sure you have plenty of warm clothing, food and water as you could stopped by the side of the road for a long time. Check road information numbers and consider the possible consequences before heading for the Sierra in bad weather. Sierra roads must often be closed for a variety of reasons - call the Caltrans road information number: 1-800-427-7623 for updated information on road conditions; and
  • If you are exposed to freezing temperatures, remove wet clothing and immediately warm up with hot soup and a blanket. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Recognize symptoms of exposure: dizziness, exhaustion and shivering are signs of hypothermia. Skin discoloration and numbness are signs of frostbite.

If you live in an area that experiences localized stream or street flooding, keep an eye out for rising streams, flooded culverts and water running across the road. Pay close attention to weather advisories.

Check on neighbors or family members who may need assistance, especially if they are elderly or face special challenges.

Stay well informed. Turn on the radio or TV news for storm and emergency information, instruction or warnings. Should a regional emergency situation develop in which the Placer County Office of Emergency Services is involved, news media will be notified, and staff will be available to provide information.

There is considerable emergency preparedness information at the Placer County website (www.placer.ca.gov ). Above all, stay informed.


Pacific Gas & Electric is offering these safety tips regarding utilities:

Safety tips:

  • Treat all downed power lines as if they are "live" or energized. Keep yourself and others away from them. Call 911, then notify PG&E at (800) 743-5002;
  • Use battery-operated flashlights, not candles;
  • Customers with generators should make sure they are properly installed by a licensed electrician. Improperly installed generators pose a significant danger to our crews; and
  • Unplug or turn off all electric appliances to avoid overloading circuits and fire hazards when power is restored. Simply leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns. Turn your appliances back on one at a time when conditions return to normal.

 

Preparing for Power Outages:

  • Have battery-operated flashlights and radios with fresh batteries ready. Listen for updates on storm conditions and power outages;
  • If you have a telephone system that requires electricity to work (such as a cordless phone or answering machine), plan for alternate communication - have a standard telephone handset, cellular telephone or pager ready as a back up; and
  • Freeze plastic containers filled with water to make blocks of ice that can be placed in your refrigerator/freezer during an outage to prevent foods from spoiling.

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