By JORDAN NELSON
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Dec. 4-8 is Winter Weather Awareness Week in West Virginia, and weather experts said due to the mild winters over the past couple of years, it may be easy to let your guard down.
However, winter in the state can bring heavy snow, ice storms, bitter cold, and even severe thunderstorms and floods, and experts are saying now is the time to prepare for whatever winter may bring.
The National Weather Service and the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management designated the week to raise awareness on the subject and throw out a few tips.
According to a press release from the National Weather Service, dozens of Americans die due to exposure to the cold each year. Even more fatalities occur in vehicle accidents, fires caused by heaters, or due to carbon monoxide poisoning from the improper use of generators during power outages.
Officials said it is ultimately up to citizens to be prepared for what winter may bring.
Jamie Bielinski, meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service in Charleston, said building a weather-ready West Virginia starts at home, and one of the best ways families can prepare for any disaster is to build an emergency kit.
“A basic emergency kit should have a three-day supply of food, water and medicine, along with the essential supplies your family will need in the event of a prolonged power outage when travel is not possible.”
Officials said to know the risks your community faces and monitor weather forecasts.
“When a winter storm is in the forecast, communicate with family members and know their location and travel plans,” the press release stated. “And make sure all family members are able to get emergency alerts.”
The release said although the best idea is to just stay home during winter storms, sometimes that’s not possible. Officials are advising people to winterize their vehicles as soon as they can, while the weather is still warm, and keep an emergency kit in vehicles.
“Weather conditions can vary greatly within short distances here in the mountains so make sure to check the forecast and road conditions along your route of travel,” the release said. “The West Virginia Department of Transportation urges you to ‘know before you go’ by checking traffic and road closure information at wv511.org before heading out the door.”
Experts said Winter Weather Awareness Week is a perfect time for families, communities, schools and businesses to review their plans and to build or resupply their emergency kits.
To help that effort, the National Weather Service in Charleston will share winter weather preparedness information throughout the week via the web, Facebook and Twitter.
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