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The Dangers of a Winter Ice Storm and the Resulting Power Outage

by Allan Wright

One of the worst ice storms in many years has just left a path of devastation from Texas to Kentucky, and has cut electrical power to hundreds of thousands of people in those states.

Toronto, Canada was also hit hard with freezing rain and drizzle, causing a build-up of ice on trees that came crashing down on cars, homes and power lines. An estimated 337,000 people were left without power.

The power was out for days in hardest-hit areas. The National Grid reported nearly 67,000 customers were without power in New York State, with 16,000 outages in Vermont and 12,000 in northern Maine.

With this huge number of homes with no heat, warming centers were set up at various community centers throughout the storm's path.

What do we need to know that can truly help us though the next ice storm and power outage?

If you must to go outside during or after an ice storm, watch for overhead branches and wires that could break and fall due to the weight of the ice. It is always safest to remain indoors.
Unless there is an emergency, do not call 9-1-1. This number should only be used if someone is injured or in danger.

Do not go near any wires that are on the ground. Any hanging power line could be live. Stay well away from wires or anything that is in contact with them.

If there are power lines down in your neighborhood, call your utility company. DO NOT GO NEAR THEM YOURSELF.

Dress to stay warm with boots or shoes with rubber soles. Wear layers, including a sweater, sweatshirt and a jacket. You lose heat through your hands and the top of your head. Wear gloves and a knitted hat.

Stay tuned to local radio stations for weather advisories and warnings. Your battery-powered radio will keep you informed on when the power might be restored. (Is it in your emergency kit?)

Avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer as much as possible. Food inside your refrigerator should stay cold for hours if the door is left closed. A full freezer will keep food frozen for 24 to 30 hours if the door remains closed.

Unplug most of your major appliances and all electronic equipment. When the power comes back on, there may be a power surge. This can harm sensitive equipment and electric motors.

Turn off all lights; leave one light on so you'll know when the power is restored.

Turn thermostats down to minimum to prevent damage when power is restored.

If you have a regular wood stove or fireplace, you can use it for heat. DO NOT USE kerosene heaters, BBQs, or any outdoor type heater inside your home. Do not run a generator inside your home or garage. Carbon Monoxide can seep into your home from the garage.

Sterno cookers and charcoal-burning devices are especially dangerous. These devices all create large amounts of poisonous gases. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas given off by combustion, it can and will kill.

Make sure your home has at least one working carbon monoxide detector that has battery-powered back-up.

If you must use candles, use proper candle holders and keep out of reach of children. Never leave lit candles unattended, even for a minute.


Be Prepared

After the lights go off is not the time to discover that the flashlight batteries are dead and that there isn't a candle or lantern in the house.

We must all plan ahead so that we will be ready for just such an emergency. A few simple steps, taken now, can make a power outage far less trying for you and your family.

Your home Emergency Kit should include a battery powered radio and flashlight, a supply of batteries, candles, matches, a first aid kit and a manual can opener.

Food and water are vital to your well-being. Enough drinking water and food supplies should be kept on hand to provide for your family for several days.

Go and check your home emergency survival kit right now!

Remember your hot water tank has a good supply of fresh water in it, if your community's water system fails.








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