Winter is Coming: Preparing for freezing temperatures

Published 5:14 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

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In preparation for what will likely be poor road conditions and below-freezing temperatures, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) provided some safety tips.

The hard freeze is forecasted to come Monday night and Tuesday morning, with temperatures remaining low throughout the week. For those who have to drive to work or school, there are some precautions to stay safe on the road. 

Jaleesa Diggins, a Communication and PR specialist for the AEMA, said to have a point of contact when traveling during winter conditions. Make sure someone knows where you will be traveling to and when you are expected to reach your destination, in case something happens on the way.   

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Diggins adds that having an alternate route is a good idea. Ice may affect the roadway you plan to travel on. Keeping phones charged is extremely important during bad weather. Diggins said to charge before leaving your home and make sure there is a charger in your car. 

Before the freeze, make sure your vehicle is running smoothly. Check fluids like coolants, oil, and windshield wiper fluid. Tires tend to decrease pressure during cold temperatures, so fill tires up and make sure the tread is adequate for icy conditions. Above all else, drive with caution. Avoid bridges and overpasses when possible, because they are often the first to freeze. If something should happen and your car gets stuck, it is helpful to have emergency kits with first aid supplies, snacks, water, blankets, flashlights, jumper cables, and cat litter for tire traction. 

For those who can stay home, Diggins emphasized the safe use of heating sources. Nothing flammable should be near a lit fireplace. For a portable heating source, like a space heater, it should be at least two to three feet away from anything flammable. Sources that use kerosene should be away from walls. If residents are using kerosene, make sure there is a working carbon monoxide detector with fresh batteries in the home. 

Diggins said the AEMA encourages people to get and check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors year-round but it is especially important in the winter when various heat sources are in use. 

“Never use the gas oven [as a heating source]. I know a lot of people will push that saying that they can use their gas oven to heat their home but never do that,” Diggins said. 

If the heat in your home were to go out, Diggins said to stay in a central location and close the doors to rooms not in use. Putting towels and blankets under doors can help keep the heat inside the room. 

For owners of generators, they should be at least 20 feet away from your windows, doors, and garages. Like all other heat sources, they should be kept clean. Users need to let generators cool down completely before refueling them.

If possible, homeowners and businesses ought to have their pipes insulated to protect them from freezing. For businesses or houses that will not be in use, the AMEA recommends turning the water off at the meter. Water shouldn’t be turned back on until the temperature is above 32 degrees. If the water remains on overnight, turn on the water sources slowly to avoid big leaks. 

Diggins recommends that everyone invest in a weather radio to stay up to date if the internet goes out. 

According to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Chambers County is under a hard freeze warning for through Wednesday morning. Governor Kay Ivey put northern counties under a state of emergency on Sunday due to the possibility of “ice, snow, sleet, and freezing rain, as well as extreme prolonged freezing temperatures,” according to the proclamation by the Governor.