Prepare now for severe winter weather

Monday sparked the start of North Dakota Severe Winter Weather Awareness Week. In a proclamation issued by Gov. John Hoeven, residents are reminded the loss of life and property during the winter months can be greatly reduced if North Dakotans ta...

Monday sparked the start of North Dakota Severe Winter Weather Awareness Week. In a proclamation issued by Gov. John Hoeven, residents are reminded the loss of life and property during the winter months can be greatly reduced if North Dakotans take appropriate preparedness measures before, during and after experiencing severe winter weather.

"Every year we get the declaration and we try to remind the people to be prepared for severe winter weather," Stark County Emergency Services Manager Gary Kostelecky said. "We'd like to remind everyone to get emergency kits for their vehicles and check their houses to make sure they are winter ready."

The proclamation also notes despite the recent history of mild winters, citizens should remain vigilant in dealing with the dangers associated with severe winter weather. Although last winter was relatively mild, the October 2005 snowstorm served as a strong reminder to local residents about the importance of being prepared.

"When you go back and look at what happened two years ago when we had that severe ice storm, that was as tough a situation as we've had to deal with in many years," Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson said. "When you consider the magnitude of that storm, the city, the utility companies and the volunteer fire department, they all responded quite well. We certainly learned from it in what we can do better if faced with a similar situation."

Winter storms generally give more advanced warning compared to a tornado or wind storm, Johnson added, giving officials and residents more time to prepare.


"With tornados and damaging winds, you might have just a few minutes of warning," he said. "With winter storms, the TV stations and the radios usually get out those early warning notices."

Kostelecky reiterated the best source of information for citizens regarding severe weather is your local television and radio stations.

"I believe we have a need to alert people of storms like tornados and wind conditions," Dickinson resident William "Jack" Jackson said. "But I don't really have much to say about winter weather."

There are two primary places people need to prepare for severe winter storms - at home and in the vehicle.

In the home

In severe winter weather, residents can be left without electricity for several hours or even days.

"You really have to use common sense in those sorts of situations," Kostelecky said. "Thankfully, our people here in southwestern North Dakota are cognizant and know how to take care of themselves, but a reminder doesn't hurt."

Kostelecky mentioned the importance of ensuring your home is properly insulated and if possible, to have a generator.


"I think all of us learned a great deal from the October storm of 2005," Dickinson city Commissioner Rhonda Dukart said. "It's all just things that we probably knew, but forgot until we went through the storm. It was a good reminder of all the things we to do to take care of ourselves."

People also need to take care of themselves after the storm. The American Red Cross states heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.

Other recommendations from the Red Cross include having extra blankets on hand, ensuring each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat and water-resistant boots, along with a disaster supply kit that includes a first aid kit, essential medication, special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members, canned food and a non-electric can opener, at least 3 gallons of water per person, portable radio, flashlight and extra batteries.

A disaster supply kit is also recommended for your vehicle.

On the road

When it comes to traveling in inclement weather, the best advice is to just stay at home.

"Don't go unless it's absolutely necessary," Kostelecky said. "If you can postpone your trip until the storm clears, do so. But if you do travel out, be sure to tell someone where you are going and what route you will take so that if something does happen, they know where to look."

Kostelecky adds if you are already out in the storm and the road becomes impassible, to pull over to the side.


"You're in danger driving when you can't see anything," he said. "There is the possibility of somebody running into you when you pull over, but if you can't see where you're going, you could very well run into another vehicle."

North Dakota Highway Patrol Dickinson District Office Capt. Tony Huck recommends before severe weather even hits, it's important to make sure your vehicle is in good working condition.

"Check the cooling system, the tires, the battery," he said. "And keep a full tank of gas, just in case you do get stuck."

Huck also advises to allow extra time for travel, as well as allowing plenty of following distance between vehicles.

"Most importantly, if you do get stuck, stay with your vehicle," he added "It's best to stay with your vehicle and wait for help to arrive."

Some extra items to keep in your car kit include a brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna for rescuers to see and a shovel to keep the exhaust pipe clear so the fumes won't back up into the vehicle.

The Red Cross recommends starting the vehicle and using the heater for about 10 minutes every hour and keeping one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.

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