Weekend forecast of nearly a foot of snow puts Knox County on alert
MOUNT VERNON — With forecasts of heavy snow fall Saturday threatening to cover Knox County, preparation and planning for emergency situations is key.
Rod Cook, executive director of the American Red Cross of East and South Central Ohio, suggested Knox County residents prepare by gathering a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food items for each member of the household. Cook also suggested having a way to contact others should a resident need to leave their home and, in the case of elderly individuals living alone, a plan in place for how to clear their sidewalks and driveways in the event they need to leave their homes.
Mark Maxwell, director of Knox County Emergency Management Agency, suggested that residents also ensure that they have plenty of medication on hand to last through the weekend in the case that they are snowed in, as well as cash on hand in the event that power outages knock out ATM access.
Having an alternative heat source or back up power source can also be very helpful, Maxwell explained, but it is important to ensure that space heaters, stoves, fireplaces and generators are used properly to prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Mount Vernon Fire Department Fire Prevention Officer Terry Davis said that residences using wood-burning stoves or fireplaces should be sure to have their chimney cleaned once a year, and should take caution with hot ashes, allowing them to cool down away from the house on noncombustible surfaces.
Screens and doors should always be used to ensure that hot embers don’t escape from the fireplace onto combustible surfaces and material, Davis said. Space heaters should be the only thing plugged into a double outlet, he explained, and should never be plugged into extension cords.
When using a portable generator, it is important to keep the generator outside of the house and garage, and to “do your homework” and have a professional electrician’s help in connecting it to the house and explaining how to switch a house’s power over to the generator, Davis said.
Working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are always important, Davis noted, but are especially necessary when using a fireplace or stove and when using generators and space heaters. To ensure the detectors will work in an emergency, batteries should be checked regularly. Visible house numbers are also helpful in the case of an emergency, because they help first responders more accurately respond to your location. Davis asked that individuals with fire hydrants in their yard also keep the area clear for easy access in an emergency.
Davis said that anyone with questions can call him at the Mount Vernon Fire Department at 740-393-9571.
In the case that a power line falls down or is knocked down by trees or ice, Maxwell noted that residents should call the local utility or fire department to report it right away, instead of trying to remove the fallen limbs themselves.
Knox County Engineer Office Project Manager Tim Tyson said that, before going out in bad weather, drivers should be aware of snow emergency warnings put out by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Snow emergencies can be listed at levels one through three. Level one, Tyson said, means that road conditions are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow and icy road conditions in which drivers are asked to use caution. A level two snow emergency states that road conditions are hazardous and that only individuals who feel it is necessary to travel should be on the road. It suggests that drivers contact their employers before leaving for work. A level three snow emergency states that roadways are closed to non-emergency personnel, and states that no one should be on the roads unless absolutely necessary. Non-emergency personnel on the roads in a level three emergency can be prosecuted, Tyson said.
He explained that roads in a storm can be slick and visibility poor. He stated that drivers should slow down to allow time to navigate the roads safely and reiterated the importance of driving with common sense. It is important, from the county perspective, Tyson said, to give plow trucks as much room as possible and to slow down and yield space to the trucks, when possible.
“Nobody has a crystal ball to predict what will happen, but we do our best to react,” Tyson said. “We’re covering 400 miles of county roads, and we’re doing our best, but it takes time and patience.”
For individuals who live on streets that are considered snow emergency streets, it is illegal to be parked on the street when snowfall is at or exceeds three inches, Tom Hinkle, City of Mount Vernon street superintendent, said. Typically, plows will first cover those main streets, called arterial roads, and state routes, as well as hills and bridges to ensure that they stay open and clear throughout the storm, Hinkle explained. As possible, crews will begin working on “secondary streets,” which are residential and side streets that don’t see as much traffic. Often these streets will only be salted at stopping points, Hinkle said, though crews will typically return to secondary streets to treat them lightly with salt to aid in further snow and ice removal after the storm.
Drivers who will be out in poor road conditions should be sure to take an emergency kit that includes water, blankets or extra clothing, as well as shovels and kitty litter for traction in case they get stuck in the snow, Maxwell said. The Ohio State Highway Patrol stated that in the event of a car being stuck in the snow, the exhaust pipes should be cleared to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. But the best advice, Maxwell said, is, “If you don’t have to be out, stay home.”