With predictions for snow tonight and tomorrow accompanied by high winds, Montgomery County officials are offering reminders to residents about preparing for possible power outages, and what to do during and after the storm. Planning ahead and following safety tips will help ease frustration and reduce dangerous situations.
Residents are urged to subscribe to Alert Montgomery at https://alert.montgomerycountymd.gov to stay updated on the latest important information. Alerts can be sent to one or more electronic devices, including cell phones, text pagers, wireless PDAs, and home and work emails.
Preparing for the Storm
If there is a power outage, be prepared by having enough food, water, medication (if needed) and batteries to last two to three days. Make sure portable radios, smoke detectors and flashlights are working properly. Keep a fresh supply of extra batteries on hand, along with a basic first aid kit and a non-electric can opener.
Check with neighbors who may require special assistance to see if they need help in stocking up on supplies or medications, and call them during the storm.
Roads labeled with red and white signs serve as snow emergency routes. If a snow emergency is declared, it is illegal to park vehicles on snow emergency routes or drive without snow tires, mud/snow radials or chains.
Residents are urged to help clear the way for snow plow operators. When parking on-street, pull close to the curb on the even numbered side of the street. Park vehicles in driveways or off the street whenever possible.
Be sure your vehicle(s) are ready to drive after the storm by filling the gas tank; checking tires to make sure they have an adequate tread and are fully inflated; checking oil, antifreeze and windshield washer fluid levels; and ensuring windshield wipers, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes and defroster are all working. Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in the car for ice and snow removal, and a small sack of sand or kitty litter to improve wheel traction.
During the Storm
The County’s snow plow map that shows the status of snow removal operations is available on the County’s website.
Should there be a power outage, relying on battery-operated lights, rather than candles, is safer. Using candles increases the risk of a fire.
To prevent candle fires:
• Be sure to extinguish them when leaving a room or going to sleep.
• Keep candles away from items that can catch fire (e.g., clothing, books, paper, curtains, etc.).
• Use candle holders that are sturdy, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that can't burn and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
• Don't place lit candles in windows. Blinds and curtains can easily ignite.
• Place candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface and do not use candles in places where they could be knocked over by children or pets.
• Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids.
• Keep candles up high out of reach of children and pets.
• Try to avoid carrying a lit candle and don't use a lit candle when searching for items in a confined space.
• Never use a candle for a light when checking pilot lights or fueling equipment such as a kerosene heater or lantern. The flame may ignite the fumes.
When using fireplaces or wood-stoves, residents should be aware that ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days. It is important to dispose of fireplace and wood-stove ashes properly. Always assume they are still hot and use a metal can to contain them. Store the can away from the home -- never in an attached garage, breezeway or on a deck.
Residents without power are urged to be aware that using gas or charcoal grills, propane heaters and stoves, kerosene space heaters or generators indoors can be fatal. They are a source of carbon monoxide, which can build up indoors and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
For downed trees on public property, residents should call 3-1-1. To report trees that have fallen on utility lines, contact local utility companies:
• BG&E 877-778-2222;
• First Energy/Potomac Edison 1-800-255-3443 (Allegheny); or
• PEPCO 1-877-737-2662.
“Hot” wires or sparking wires, especially those across roadways, may be reported by calling 9-1-1.
Residents concerned about the safety and well-being of children, elderly individuals or adults with disabilities should call the County’s Crisis Center at 240-777-4000.
After the Storm
Within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm, all residential and commercial property owners are required by County law to clear their sidewalks. Residents are encouraged to help elderly or ill neighbors with this task. When shoveling, “Adopt a Fire Hydrant” by making sure that the nearest hydrant is shoveled out so it is visible from the street.
Exercise caution when shoveling snow. Try to shovel snow into the yard rather than into the street. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the body. Individuals with heart disease or high blood pressure should follow their doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.
Serious health problems such as hypothermia and frostbite can be caused by prolonged exposure to the cold. Watch for loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In both cases, residents should get medical attention immediately if symptoms are present.
When preparing to drive, be sure to thoroughly clear the snow from the entire car – including roofs, windshields trunks and hoods – to ensure visibility and prevent snow from blowing onto surrounding cars. When driving, do not speed and be sure to leave plenty of space between your car and the one in front of you. Avoid pulling out in front of other vehicles and do not slow down before going up a hill.
Montgomery County officials urge residents to use extreme caution when driving and walking following a snowstorm. Drivers should watch for pedestrians in the roadway, particularly at night when visibility is low. Under the law, a driver approaching a traffic signal that is not working must stop before entering the crosswalk or intersection. When two or more vehicles approach an intersection without a working traffic signal, the driver on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on his or her immediate right.
Other safety tips for drivers include:
• Slow down and obey the posted speed limit.
• Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections- it's the law.
• Don't block crosswalks when stopping at intersections.
• Take extra care around schools, playgrounds, and neighborhoods.
• Always look out for pedestrians, especially before turning at a green light or making a “right turn on red.”
• Obey signs, signals and markings--and never run red lights.
• Be careful when passing stopped vehicles. They might be stopping for pedestrians.
• Share the road. It is your responsibility to look out for others.
Safety tips for pedestrians include:
• Stay visible after dark and in bad weather with reflectors or retro-reflective clothing.
• Cross the street at marked crosswalks and intersections whenever possible.
• Stop and look every time before crossing streets, even when you have the right-of-way, and especially at intersections with “right turn on red.”
• Before crossing, look left, right, then left again, and over your shoulder for turning vehicles.
• Begin crossing the street on “Walk” signals – never on a solid or flashing “Don’t Walk.”
Plowing of roads occurs when three or more inches of snow accumulates with a temperature below freezing. The County’s Department of Transportation completely clears emergency and primary routes before beginning clearing of neighborhood streets. Neighborhood streets are not cleared to bare pavement, but are made passable.
For more information about snow removal operations visit the County’s website or call 3-1-1. The County’s 3-1-1 Call Center closes today at 7 p.m. and will reopen on Wednesday morning at 6 a.m.
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