RALEIGH — North Carolina experienced its first severe weather storm of the season last week, resulting in several inches of snow just after the first of the year. Local, state and federal agencies are planning for the season ahead and encourage residents to do the same.
We pulled together the most helpful information, tips and recommendations from officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure residents in all 100 counties are prepared for the winter season and understand how officials are working to solve weather-related issues.
While much of the state is thawing out, some school systems remained closed Tuesday due to slick side streets. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has been moving around-the-clock to prepare, treat and scrape roadways.
“To be most effective, the brine must be applied on dry roads when the temperature is above 18 degrees,” said the NCDOT Communications Office. “So, if the forecast calls for an event to begin as all rain, the crews won’t pretreat because the brine would be washed away. Interestingly, brine is about half the cost of rock salt.”
NCDOT is responsible for more than 163,000 lane miles of roads, prioritizing interstates and U.S. routes to be cleared first because they are essential for connectivity throughout the state.
Road crews then shift their focus to N.C. routes, lower-volume primary routes, secondary roads and then subdivisions.
“NCDOT does its best to treat areas it knows are prone to black ice, but because it is in isolated spots and forms quickly, it’s not possible to treat every spot,” said NCDOT. “The best way to avoid black ice is to stay off roads unless you absolutely must go out. If you do, drive slowly and leave plenty of space between vehicles in front of you.”
AAA Carolinas says 20 feet is the minimum distance between a vehicle and a plow. They also recommend that drivers avoid unnecessary travel in icy weather, but to stay on major routes because they are treated first. Before the next storm arrives, this is the time to get tires inspected, pack an emergency car kit with an ice scrapper, jumper cables, portable phone charger, sand and warm blankets.
In addition to changes in road conditions, snow, ice and strong winds can bring power outages. North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives continuously monitor weather conditions and reports. In turn, they are prepared to respond quickly if power outages occur as a result of the approaching winter storm.
Before the Next Storm:
Make sure your car battery and tires are in good condition
Trim branches away from your home
Install a carbon monoxide monitor
Assemble emergency supplies kit for car and home
Never use a gas-powered generator indoors or in the garage
Never use charcoal grills or propane stoves indoors, even in a fireplace
To help their members prepare for winter storms, North Carolina’s 26 independent electric cooperatives recommend creating a home emergency preparedness kit with food, water, medicines, first-aid supplies, blankets and flashlights in the event of a power outage.
Being stuck indoors for days has residents flocking to the grocery store for milk, bread and the essentials. Maintaining food safety and refrigeration of items is important with or without power in homes.
“No matter what season it is, it’s always important to follow the four steps of food safety — clean, separate, cook and chill,” said Archie Magoulas, technical specialist with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA.
“In the case of power outages, you can keep items in the refrigerator up to four hours, but try to move as many items over to the freezer as you can. A full freezer can withstand two days without power, and a partial freezer can keep items safe for a day,” Magoulas added.
Even if you still have power and are snowed in, it is still important to follow food safety principles. Milk can last about seven days. Meat and poultry should not be left on the counter to thaw. Thawing can be done in the refrigerator or microwave. Any foods thawed in the microwave cannot be refrozen.
Magoulas also helped debunk myths floating around on social media. It’s not a smart idea to fill your washing machine with ice as a make-shift cooler.
“Due to the chemicals in your laundry detergent, it’s not healthy or advisable to place ice or food inside due to the ability of cross contamination,” said Magoulas.
In addition, a popular snow day treat for some is snow cream; however, the FSIS does not recommend it.
“This is not advisable due to bacteria found outside,” said Magoulas. “Some bacteria do not die in cold weather, they simply become dormant. You also risk elements of outside dust and bacteria traveling into your container of snow.”
The NCDOT, N.C. Electric Cooperative, FSIS the USDA offer websites, app for iPhones, social media posts and more to help residents stay connected with the lasted weather updates and safety tips.