Newcomers urged to prep for first notorious ND winter
For those who recently came to North Dakota to find work in the Oil Patch or fields related to the oil boom, the state's winter is the furthest thing from a warm welcome.
Dunn County emergency management officials are holding an open house Wednesday aimed at arming these new residents with information to help them be prepared for the coldest and snowiest days of the state's notorious winters. It takes place from 4-7 p.m. at the Killdeer Masonic Lodge.
"We have so many more people living and residing in Dunn County that have never lived in North Dakota before," said Denise Brew, the county's emergency manager.
"A lot of them have no knowledge of cold and (the open house is) to help show them and teach them that there are things here that are way different than the cold in Arizona," she said.
Residents in RVs are an especially targeted market.
If an RV relies on propane tanks for power, for example, residents should have spares in case of a bad blizzard, Brew said.
"Especially if it's a raging blizzard, the plan ahead thing is huge," she said. "If ... there's gonna be a bad storm and you know it, get an extra tank and prepare."
Other risks come from dangerous ways to keep an RV warm -- surrounding it with straw bales as insulation or using a gas stove as a room heater are both fire hazards, Brew said.
There is also a risk of RV residents gassing themselves to death if the vehicle is sealed with a certain kind of heater operating inside.
North Dakota Department of Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong said the best tool for the newcomers is information.
"There's several factors at play just depending on where someone's from in the country," she said.
"For some folks, it's likely they maybe have never experienced extreme cold temperatures. ... It's important for them to arm themselves with as much information as possible about what to expect."
The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts a colder than normal winter in the northern High Plains region this year.
Becky Buchmann, Dunn County's North Dakota State University extension agent, said at the event residents can also learn about protecting livestock, like how to avoid frostbite and how to properly feed them during winter.
It's also about keeping livestock owners themselves safe, she said -- "making sure that you try and keep them as safe as possible, yet don't get yourself stuck out in the storm as well."
Officials will be available to chat and hand out materials at the open house, the first-ever event of this kind in Dunn County.
"If I can reach one family, then I'm doing my job," Brew said. "It gives them the opportunity to brush up on what they can do to get prepared."