District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams has proclaimed November 12-18, 2000, as "Winter Preparedness Awareness Week in the District of Columbia." In doing so, he joins Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, Virginia Governor James Gilmore, and the National Weather Service in encouraging citizens in the Washington region to educate themselves about the dangers of severe winter weather and take steps to fully protect themselves from its effects.
District of Columbia Emergency Management Agency Director Peter G. LaPorte said the snowstorms that hit the Washington region in late January of this year cost the city more than $2 million and were so severe that the District received a presidential disaster declaration. He said National Weather Service predictions for the 2000/2001 snow season call for a return to normal winter temperatures after several years of warmer that normal winters due to the effects of El Nino and La Nina.
Mr. LaPorte said, "The weather service is calling for a greater chance of more snow along the spine of the Appalachians from New England to the Carolinas and points east, including Washington. It is also predicting average temperatures four degrees Fahrenheit colder than the last three winters. This means citizens must begin now to prepare for possible severe winter weather."
The average annual snowfall in the District of Columbia is 18 inches, but varies from season to season. Sometimes snowstorms are accompanied by strong winds creating blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow, severe drifting, and dangerous wind chill. These winds can also knock down trees, utility poles, and power lines.
Sleet and freezing rain also create hazardous conditions and can cause damage. Although sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects, it can accumulate like snow and cause hazardous driving conditions.
Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing will freeze to the surface, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Heavy accumulations of ice can bring down trees, electrical wires, telephone poles and lines, and communication towers.
Mayor Proclaims November 12-18, 2000, as Winter Preparedness Awareness Week in DC (Continued)
Some of the winter weather terms to know and understand are:
Winter storm watch: severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, are possible within the next day or two. Prepare now!
Winter storm warning: severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin in your area. Stay indoors!
Blizzard warning: snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill. Seek refuge immediately!
Winter weather advisory: winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, these situations should not become life threatening. The greatest hazard is often to motorists.
Frost/freeze warning: below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause significant damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees. In areas unaccustomed to freezing temperatures, people who have homes without heat need to take added precautions.
Mr. LaPorte said, in addition to knowing and understanding the terms used to forecast winter weather, citizens should take certain steps in advance to prepare for the onset of severe weather. Primary concerns are the potential loss of heat, power, telephone service, and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day.
Supplies to have on hand at home and at work include:
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Battery-powered portable radio to receive emergency information
- Extra food and water -- high-energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration is best
- Extra medicine and baby items
- First aid supplies
- Heating fuel -- fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a severe winter storm
- Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, or space heater
- Fire extinguisher and smoke detector
Travelers should also be prepared for winter storms. All drivers should fully check and winterize their vehicles before the winter season begins. During winter months drivers should keep gas tanks near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
"The bottom line," said Mr. LaPorte, "is that everyone is potentially at risk during winter storms. People should keep ahead of the storm by listening to the weather report and take steps in advance to prepare for weather-related emergencies."