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Mayor Vincent C. Gray Says the District Is Prepared for Onset of Winter Weather

Friday, October 28, 2011
As the first winter system moves into the area, DC agencies practice a snow "dry run."

As the first potential winter weather of the season approaches the National Capital Region today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray says the District government is prepared for it and the rest of this winter’s inclement weather.

“As the region experiences its first Nor’easter of the season, the District government is prepared to respond to protect the public, including our most vulnerable residents,” said Mayor Gray. “Agencies that handle transportation, snow removal and emergency response are drilled and ready.”

The DC Department of Public Works (DPW) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) conducted a snow-preparedness “Dry Run” today, giving heavy and light plow truck drivers and other equipment operators the opportunity to practice their skills before the first snowfall. The event showcased about 250 pieces of equipment -- including front-end loaders that fill the plows with salt, tow trucks used to remove vehicles parked illegally during a snow emergency and tanker trucks used to pre-treat major roadways. In addition to drivers, participants in the exercise included IT professionals, quality-control personnel, safety personnel and salt-dome staff.

Saturday’s forecast calls for rain -- possibly mixed with snow -- in the afternoon, ending in the late evening. Any snow mixed is expected to melt on the roadways, and pavement and air temperatures are expected to remain above freezing.

“The District will deploy several plows during the day to monitor bridges and other elevated structures and apply salt if necessary,” said DPW Director William O. Howland, Jr. “If the snow doesn’t materialize, we will stand down.” He added, “It is a coincidence that the Dry Run occurred the day before the first flakes are predicted for the District. Tomorrow’s forecast of rain mixed with snow kept us focused, and we will be ready if Saturday’s forecast becomes more severe and we have to deploy more plows.”

DDOT Director Terry Bellamy stressed that everyone can play a role in winter-weather preparedness. “We are preparing our plan, our people and our plows for the snow season, and we encourage the public to prepare as well,” he said. “That includes having more than one way to get home in bad weather. That also includes having options in case you need to delay your trip home: Where will you stay? Who will pick your kids up from school or daycare? Planning now for emergencies will pay off in the long run.”

District officials will coordinate with the National Weather Service and monitor surface temperatures throughout the weekend to determine if roadways need to be treated.

The District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) and Department of Human Services (DHS) are reviewing the District’s hypothermia response plan and preparing to activate it should the actual temperature or wind-chill temperature drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

HSEMA officials will remain in direct contact with the National Weather Service and notify District, regional and federal officials if there is a major change in the weekend’s forecast or if any watches or warnings are issued.

HSEMA Director Millicent West said the weekend’s forecast provides a good opportunity for the District to polish its winter-weather response. “Agencies have been working together for months to ensure our readiness for the winter season,” she said. “The weather predicted for the weekend gives us the opportunity to test our plans and capabilities further.”

Winter Weather Preparedness Tips

Terms you should know and understand:

  • Winter Storm Watch means a winter storm is possible.
  • Winter Storm Warning means a winter storm is occurring or will soon occur.
  • Blizzard Warning means a storm is occurring or will soon occur with sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater; considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected for a period of three hours or longer.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning means below-freezing temperatures are expected.
  • Snow Advisory means that snow is expected to occur and may accumulate.
  • Snow Warning means that heavy amounts of snow are occurring or are imminent.
  • Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground, causing moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.

In addition to knowing and understanding the terms used to forecast winter weather, you should have certain supplies on hand at your home before winter weather arrives:

  • NOAA Weather Radio or battery-powered or hand-crank radio to receive weather reports and emergency information.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Extra food and water. High-energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration are best.
  • Special supplies (such as medications) for seniors, family members with disabilities, infants, young children and pets.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.
  • At least a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day). Store in sealed, unbreakable containers.
  • A three-to-five-day supply of non-perishable canned food, and a non-electric can opener.
  • Working fire extinguisher and smoke detector.
  • Change batteries in all your equipment at least once a year. An easy way to remember is to do it when you turn your clocks back in the fall.

Winter Weather Driving Tips:

  • Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.
  • Travel during the day and keep others informed of your schedule.
  • Stay on main roads; avoid back roads and alleys.
  • Keep your gas tank as full as possible.
  • If you become stranded in your car, do not leave the vehicle. It provides excellent shelter until help arrives.
  • Dress for the weather. Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing.

Be ready, DC! Learn more about preparing for winter weather at www.72hours.dc.gov