Emergency Management Services offers tips to stay safe during winter weather

LEWISTOWN – Winter weather has arrived to the Juniata Valley, and two storms have already brought hazardous conditions, as well as cold weather, to the area.

Phil Lucas, Director of Mifflin County Emergency Services, said most of the winter storms that effect the area only last a few days, but it is the type of storm that determines the severity.

“Our biggest concern,” Lucas said. “Are snow and ice storms, these are the storms that lead to more downed power lines and trees.”

The Juniata Valley is typically on the lower end of the State College predictions, mainly due to their position and elevation. However, Lucas said this does vary depending on the storm. These storms are usually accompanied by strong winds and extreme cold. The winds are what can create blizzard-like conditions, even when the storm is not a severe storm. The wind can also create snow drift, creating patches of deeper snow.

Freezing rain storms, cause ice to accumulate on services. The ice begins to weigh power lines and tree branches, which can cause power outages and trees blocking the road. The days after these storms can also cause adverse travel conditions, including black ice. An early winter storm could bring cold weather at night and warm weather during the day, causing the ice and snow to melt, then refreeze.

Lucas said the biggest help area residents can do is to not travel unless necessary during adverse weather. He said beyond staying home, being prepared is another big help.

“Our organization offers three easy steps to follow: be informed, be prepared and be involved,” Lucas said. “Another tip is to let people know the route you will travel and what time you will be there. Letting people know your travel information will help if you become stranded without a means of contact.”

Lucas also said families should have both emergency plans and emergency kits easily accessible. The plan for the home should be easy enough for young children to understand. The kit should contain enough food, water and supplies to last a minimum of four days without power and help, but Lucas says a minimum of seven days is better.

“Being near the mountains like the Juniata Valley is, sometimes makes it harder for power to be restored or to have help come to our aide,” Lucas said.

A basic kit contains: food that does not require heating or refrigeration; manual can opener; paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils; 1 gallon of water per person per day, allowing enough for four days; flashlights and batteries; battery-powered radio and clock; cell phone; first-aid kit; four-day supply of prescription medicines; blanket and cold weather clothing for each family; pet food and additional water for household pets.

Lucas also said having a kit in the car is helpful, in case while driving one would get stranded. In this case staying in the car alternating have the car on for heat, along with blankets and more winter clothes for those in the vehicle. A basic emergency winter kit for a vehicle should contain: a bag of sand, road salt, or non-clumping cat litter, the extra weight of the bag means better traction and the contents can be spread under slipping tires; ice scraper; small shovel, to dig away from wheels, or to scatter sand on the road; tire chains, every driver should practice putting them on; flares or reflective triangles to warn other motorists if you break down, or have to stop; flashlight and batteries; gallon just of drinking water; first aid kit.

Lucas said before traveling or making plans when winter weather is possible it is best to check a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radio, and to continue to check it during the storm. He also said to check Alert Pa., which is tied to the National Weather Service.

Winter weather has only just begun for the Juniata Valley and more storms are yet to come. For more information about winter preparedness go to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency website at readypa.org.