Red Cross, EPDoT stress urgency for winter storm preparations

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - 5:59pm

EL PASO — Both the El Paso Red Cross and Department of Transportation urged residents to prepare for a winter storm warning.

Extreme cold temperatures and snow were expected in the borderland Thursday night continuing into Friday morning. The Red Cross said preparing beforehand can make all the difference when faced with an extreme weather situation.

“There is usually an increase in home fires during cold spells like this because of the use of space heaters and alternative heating sources,” said Mark Matthys, Executive Director of Red Cross El Paso.

Heat the home safely with these tips:
• All heaters need space! Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, fireplaces and stoves.
• Place portable space heaters on a hard, level, nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes, and keep children and pets away. Look for a model that shuts off automatically if the space heater tips over. Do not use heating equipment to dry wet clothing. Never use the stove or oven to heat your home.
• Never leave portable heaters, wood burning stoves or fireplaces unattended. Turn them off before leaving or going to bed.
• Keep the fire in the fireplace by using a glass or metal screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
• Carbon monoxide kills. Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.

Stock up on necessities, wear protective clothing:
• Ensure you have 3 days worth of food and water for every member of your family. The recommended minimum water supply is one gallon per day per person.
• Store non-perishable, easily prepared foods.
• Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing. Don’t forget gloves or mittens, and a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.
• Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry and to maintain footing in ice and snow.
• Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).

Bring pets inside:

• Don’t forget pets – bring them indoors. If that’s not possible, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.
• Check on people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
• Check to be sure automatic landscape irrigation systems are turned off so they don’t spray water on roadways or sidewalks which may freeze and cause hazardous conditions

To keep the roadways safe for the traveling public, EPDoT said they were continuously monitoring weather reports by the National Weather Service and is prepared to carry out the De-Icing Plan for El Paso in coordination with emergency officials and the local office of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Sand and salt spreaders, as well as, snow plows were ready for deployment. If the plan is implemented, EPDoT crews will concentrate their efforts on main roadways, bridges and overpasses. Priority will be given to routes to hospitals, fire houses and police stations, as well, as assisting state transportation officials with clearing the highway system.

EPDoT recommends that drivers use extreme caution and maintain safe speeds and distances from other vehicles. The public is reminded that bridges and overpasses are typically the first to freeze. If conditions become icy, motorists are urged to stay off the roadways, if at all possible. Reduced traffic will allow emergency vehicles to move freely during the storm and help to ensure that roads are plowed and treated appropriately.

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