Toward that effort, Gov. Brad Henry proclaimed today, Wednesday, Nov. 10, as Winter Weather Preparedness Day. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM), Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), the National Weather Service (NWS), along with other state and local agencies have teamed together to share information designed to assist the public in taking action now to ensure they are better prepared for the season.
Last winter’s blizzard and ice storm provide the most recent reminders of the need to prepare your home, automobile and family to deal with the colder temperatures, as well as the possibility for snow and ice. During the Christmas blizzard, record snowfall required stranded motorists to be rescued by the Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and local first responders.
“The memory of those travelers stuck in the cold for long hours awaiting rescue last Christmas drives home the need to always prepare,” said OEM Director Albert Ashwood. “Having a blanket, heavy gloves, emergency food and water, a flashlight, a well charged cell phone and a full tank of gas could have made a big difference for many of those awaiting rescue on Oklahoma roadways,” Ashwood said.
If you must travel during a snow or ice event, allow extra time to reach your destination, and be particularly cautious on bridges and overpasses as they will be the first to freeze.
As drivers have seen during the past two winter seasons, travel conditions can rapidly change. Drivers who must travel in these conditions are urged to drive slowly during snow or ice storms and to plan extra time for their travel. ODOT crews report they are ready for this upcoming winter season.
"Statewide, our salt and sand supplies are fully stocked, and more than 500 trucks are available to clear snow and ice from highways and interstates," ODOT Director of Operations Casey Shell said. "During our clearance operations, we ask that drivers stay at least 200 feet behind our equipment, for both their safety and the safety of our crews."
January’s ice storm reminds us it’s also important to protect your home. Adding weather stripping and insulation, keeping furnaces clean and ready to use, and being aware of cold temperatures and vulnerable pipes that might freeze mark just some of the actions that can help prevent major and costly winter weather-related damage.
Since 2007 alone, Oklahoma ice storms have been responsible for more than 60 deaths and power outages to more than 660,000 homes and businesses across the state. Infrastructure damage to the state, cities, towns and counties alone exceeded $300 million.
“By following some simple tips and monitoring your local weather during times of severe weather, Oklahomans stand their best chance at not becoming a victim,” said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS Office in Norman.
Information regarding hazardous winter weather, including watches and warnings, is available on the NWS website at www.weather.gov, on NOAA Weather All Hazards Radio and on local radio and television stations. Sign up now to receive OEM’s weather alerts and receive NWS watches, warnings on your cell phone or other email address at www.ok.gov/OEM/. For additional winter weather preparedness tips go to www.ok.gov/OEM/News/2010_News/20101109_-_Winter_Weather_Preparedness.html