How to stay safe during a winter storm
BATON ROUGE - The capital city is pushing through what many hope will be the last leg of a winter storm that descended upon the area early Monday (Feb. 15) morning and officials are warning residents to use caution while going about daily activities.
For most, daily activities are limited to the confines of their home.
But as thousands in the Baton Rouge area and nearby parishes deal with power outages caused by iced power lines and other winter conditions, even staying home can pose a threat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following suggestions in relation to staying safe at home during a winter storm:
Heat Your Home Safely
-If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and remember that turning on the stove for heat is not safe.
-Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Make sure to keep them away from any flammable materials, like curtains or blankets.
-Use fireplaces, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak gas from the flue or exhaust into the indoor air space.
-Have your heating system serviced by a qualified technician every year.
-Do not burn paper in a fireplace.
-Make sure you have proper ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater.
-Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use—don’t substitute.
-Keep heat sources, like space heaters, at least 3 feet away from drapes, furniture, or bedding. Never cover your space heater.
-Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
-Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
-Make sure that the cord of an electric space heater is not a tripping hazard, but do not run the cord under carpets or rugs.
-Avoid using extension cords to plug in your space heater.
-If your space heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, do not use it.
Use generators and other appliances safely
-Generators should be located at least 20 feet from any window, door, or vent and in a space where rain and snow will not reach them.
-Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector.
-Never using generators, gas or charcoal grills, camp stoves, or similar devices inside your home, in basements, in garages, or near windows. The fumes are deadly.
-Plug-in appliances to the generator using individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords.
-Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet.
-Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.
-Some gas-fueled heaters, such as vent-less gas fireplaces, require some ventilation. Otherwise, if you don’t need extra ventilation, keep as much heat as possible inside your home.
-Avoid unnecessarily opening doors or windows.
-Close off unneeded rooms.
-Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
-Close draperies or cover windows with blankets at night.
Additional advice from the CDC on winter storm safety can be found here.
Though Baton Rouge residents have been urged to steer clear of roadways, those who find themselves in emergency situations may need to get behind the wheel.
If this is the case, it's paramount that drivers use extreme caution when roads are icy.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), large quantities of ice can bring down trees, topple utility poles, and communication towers. So, even small accumulations of ice can be extremely dangerous to drivers and pedestrians. Bridges and overpasses are especially dangerous as they are more likely to freeze before other surfaces.
Black ice is another concern for drivers. The NWS describes it as "patchy ice on roadways or other transportation surfaces that cannot easily be seen." Black ice is often clear (not white) with the black road surface visible underneath.
It's most common during the early morning hours, especially after snow melt on the roadways has a chance to refreeze over night when the temperature drops below freezing. Black ice can also form when roadways are slick from rain and temperatures drop below freezing overnight.
If you decide to venture out on the ice, it may be helpful to keep the following guidelines in mind:
Keep a close eye on the road surface
Black ice is difficult to detect when driving. So, pay close attention to the road surface when driving in potentially icy conditions, and watch out for pavement that looks dark, wet, or like new asphalt. If an area has seen very low temperatures, recent precipitation, or has a history of icing, black ice could very well be present on the roadways. Additionally, bridges or elevated roadways are more likely to form ice.
Know how your vehicle behaves on ice
If you drive on black ice, your vehicle may behave unpredictably. So, avoid over-correcting with the steering wheel or panic-braking. Before you get on the road, ensure that large or dangerous objects (whether they're inside, outside, or on top of the vehicle) are secure. Unsecured loads could result in serious injury should you hit a patch of ice (and can also result in you being pulled over and ticketed).
If you are sliding on black ice and unable to stay in control, follow these steps:
-Don’t slam on the brakes.
-Take your foot off the gas.
-Steer your car in the direction you want to go.
-Wait for the car to slow down and the wheels to catch so you can regain control.
Pay attention to other drivers
If you are in an area where road icing is not common, other drivers may have a difficult time spotting and adapting to icing conditions. Make sure that you give other drivers plenty of space in case they cannot come to a controlled stop. Leave a full 8 seconds or more of driving time in between you and the car in front of you.
Click here for more information on vehicle safety under freezing temperatures.
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