CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – When winter sweeps through the Carolinas, there are many aspects of living in a colder climate that not all residents are used to.
WCNC meteorologist Charlotte KJ Jacobs has compiled a comprehensive guide to help you navigate these cold, snowy, and sometimes dangerous conditions.
Types of winter precipitation in North Carolina: what to expect
Most often, winter hits the Carolinas with various types of precipitation. Residents of Carolina encounter snow, sleet, freezing rain, and rain. The impact can cause crippling conditions for our region due to power outages, flight cancellations, road closures and more.
Staying safe during the winter months begins with following the forecast. Once you are in the know and plan accordingly, you reduce the chances of being caught off guard or injured.
Because winter can strike fast and hard for our region, here is a handy guide in the event of a school closure, power failure, even if you are trying to get from point A to point B.
It might sound cheesy, but download the WCNC Charlotte news app. It’s a great tool for receiving notifications and alerts to help you prepare and stay safe during the storm. The app is equipped to notify you based on your current location, whether it’s a tornado warning or a winter weather alert.
For the latest news, weather and traffic alerts, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile app.
Understanding winter weather alerts
Let’s break down what the most common mean.
Winter storm warning: Snow, sleet and / or ice expected. It’s time to take action / precaution.
Winter storm watch: Snow, sleet and / or ice possible. This means you need to be prepared for conditions to worsen.
Winter storm warning: Winter weather expected. Be careful and stay vigilant
RELATED: Weather IQ: When It Snows In Charlotte
Driving in winter
First, winter driving in the Carolinas should be an option of last resort. If you must driving, there are some things you can do. Be sure to slow down in snow due to reduced visibility and slippery and icy conditions.
Black ice can be hard to see until it’s too late. Black ice is usually a thin layer of ice appearing as wet patches on the road. It is transparent, often matches the color of the roadway, and is almost invisible to drivers, which is why it is so dangerous.
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If temperatures are near or below freezing after the snow or ice has melted, assume there is black ice on the road and be extremely careful. Ice storm is most common at night and before dawn.
If you see a particularly severe patch of ice, report it to law enforcement and / or the North Carolina Department of Transportation so they can deal with and monitor the road.
Dust off the snow
While many people may think of removing snow from their windshields and windows, many people also don’t think of brushing it off the top of the vehicle. If you don’t, snow or ice can break off and obstruct the view of another car behind you or cause an accident.
Of course, that goes without saying on the roads no matter what the conditions, but it is important to note that cruise control should not be used in winter conditions. Speeding is the main cause of wrecks in winter.
Bridges and viaducts
When driving, be sure to approach bridges and overpasses with extreme caution. Raised surfaces are particularly sensitive to frost, so be careful of possible ice build-up.
Emergency Vehicle Power Kit
Before another winter storm hits, make sure your home and vehicle are well stocked with the items essential to your survival.
- Cell phone charger
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit
- High-calorie, non-perishable foods
- Extra clothes to stay dry
- Large empty box to use as an emergency toilet, tissues, toilet paper and paper towels
- Small waterproof can and matches for melting snow for drinking water
- Sandbag or cat litter for traction
- Windshield scraper and brush
- Tool kit
- Tow rope
- Battery jumper cables
- Water reservoir
It might sound like an intense list, but you don’t want to skip a step and it’s the only item you really need in a disaster.
Winterize your home
Now that the hurricane season is over, refresh some of the same items for your home emergency weather supply kit. It is important to have these items in stock for emergencies during the cold winter months.
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- A battery-powered weather radio to receive emergency updates
- Additional non-perishable foods and bottled water. This water can be used for brushing teeth, cleaning, etc.
- First aid kit
- Additional medications and baby necessities
- Emergency heat sources, such as a radiator, wood stove or fireplace.
Also, be sure to install and check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (the easiest way to remember this is to do it when daylight saving time arrives twice a year). Caulk windows and doors, insulate exposed pipes, clean gutters, inspect your chimney if you are using a fireplace to heat your home.
The risk of bursting pipes increases during the winter months when there is a hard frost. Pipes in unheated areas of your home are usually the most vulnerable, such as in the attic, garage, or basement.
To help keep water running and your home dry, add insulation to the attic and basement, keep the garage door closed, let the water drip from the faucet overnight, leave the doors open cabinets so that hot air can circulate. And if you are away, leave the heating on and set the thermostat to low.
Trees / limbs felled
Sometimes in strong winds, heavy snow or even heavy rain, tree branches or entire trees may fall.
If you see one that has fallen and is endangering people, you should call 911. If you see one that has fallen and just needs to be disassembled or removed, call your city’s 311 services. Or if you live in the Charlotte area, you can CLT + application or call 311 (704-336-7600 if calling from outside Mecklenburg County).
RELATED: Protect Pipes In Cold Weather
Protect the animals
Protect your furry family members during cold temperatures. Make sure you can provide them with warm shelter from freezing temperatures, wind, and precipitation. Have enough food and water for them too. Also, if they have chills, provide them with a sweater.
While many people think about the necessities they would need for warmth and food during a disaster, sometimes pet owners forget to prepare for their four-legged friends.
RELATED: Answering Your Pet’s Safety Questions As Winter Approaches
Dress in layers for the next three months when temperatures are near or below 32 degrees. Be sure to cover exposed skin when it is extremely cold or when wind chill is a factor. If you experience wet conditions with cold temperatures and wind, put on dry clothing and seek shelter immediately. Be aware of the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Difficulty speaking
- Stiff muscles
- Feel like sleeping
Report power outages
Blue Ridge Energy: There are three ways for customers in Alexander, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, and Watauga counties to report power outages.
- Call 1-800-448-2383
- the Blue Ridge Energy mobile app
- SMS alerts. Customers can send a START SMS to 70216. From there, SMS OUT to 70216 at any time to report an outage. Text STATUS to check the status.
Duke Energy: To report a power outage to Duke Energy, call 1-800-769-3766. You can also report breakdowns online by clicking here. The same number can be used to report power line outages in your area.
With recent advancements in technology, there is less chance that you will have to wait at the airport when your flight is canceled due to winter weather conditions, if you are prepared.
Download the app for your airline and track your plane. This approach will provide you with real-time data and help you make decisions such as “Wait”, “Re-book my flight” “Get a hotel room”.