Another arctic blast lashes region

Feb. 11, 2014 @ 04:53 PM

If you don’t absolutely have to go anywhere today, don’t even try to leave your house.

That’s the message from Maj. Jamie Thomas of the Sanford Police Department. He said Tuesday afternoon that given how much snow had already fallen — and how much more snow and ice was still expected — only people who need to drive to work or for emergency purposes should attempt going out on the roads.

And for those who must drive somewhere, he said, make sure to leave with a fully charged cell phone so that it will be possible to call for help if need be. He said all who drive should clear their windows and mirrors before heading out, make sure to drive below the posted speed limit and give lots of room to any vehicles in front of them.

And for those who get stranded, he said, put on the blinkers, move the car off the road if possible and call law enforcement for assistance. Thomas said when it snowed two weeks ago, more crashes were reported than usual, but none led to any serious injuries — and he’s hoping for the same again, even if he can’t predict what will actually happen once the roads become icy.

“We’re prepared for whatever,” Thomas said. “We’ll handle this the best that we can.”

The National Weather Service is also urging preparedness and has issued a winter storm warning for northern Georgia and Alabama, all of South Carolina and all of North Carolina except a few northeastern counties.

“A winter storm warning means severe winter weather conditions are expected to occur,” the NWS wrote. “Significant amounts of snow and ice will make travel dangerous and could potentially result in property damage and power outages. Only travel in an emergency, especially on Wednesday and Thursday.”

Shane Seagroves, director of Lee County Emergency Services, said Monday that in addition to hazardous driving conditions, the area is likely in for widespread power outages. If that does happen and local officials deem the situation to be truly dangerous, he said, emergency shelters will open for people without power to find help, warmth and shelter.

Customers of Duke Energy Progress can call 1-800-419-6356 to report an outage. Central Electric Membership Corporation customers can call 1-877-766-6769. Both companies also have maps online showing which areas have power outages.

To report a downed power line or other emergency, call 911.

Abby Cameron of the Lee County Red Cross said that if power does go out, people who use portable heaters need to be careful — because they have caused fires in the past, especially when people use the wrong kind of fuel, like putting gasoline in a propane heater.

There are other considerations, too, she said, including keeping it away from furniture, drapes and other possibly flammable objects — and even creating shifts to keep an eye on it throughout the night, just to make sure nothing accidentally catches fire.

“Make sure someone is around the heater 24 hours when it’s on,” she said. “Never leave it unattended.”

The American Red Cross also recommends making an emergency preparedness kit that contains water, nonperishable food, flashlights, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, medicines and a first aid kit.