PEMA Urges Western PA Residents to Prepare for Winter Storm, Avoid Travel

Dec 06, 2010, 14:06 ET from Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency

Motorists Should Not Venture Out Without Emergency Supplies

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 6, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is urging residents of western Pennsylvania to prepare for dangerous travel, strong winds and possible power outages as a lake-effect storm is expected to bring a significant snowfall to Erie and the Laurel Highlands through Wednesday.

The storm could bring two feet of snow – or more – to some areas of the state. Wind chills are forecast in the single digits near zero.

"While people living in areas prone to lake-effect snow are generally prepared for snow, all motorists should check weather forecasts and traffic reports and gather emergency supplies before heading out in a storm," said acting Deputy Operations Director Roland "Bud" Mertz. "The wind will create hazardous driving conditions with blowing snow, and wind chills will make it dangerous to be outside for any extended period of time."

If travel is absolutely necessary, drivers can learn current roadway conditions by calling 511 while stopped in a safe location, or before leaving home, or by visiting 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, average traffic speeds on urban interstates and access to more than 500 traffic cameras. 511 also features color-coded winter road conditions for all interstates and other routes covered in the 511 reporting network.

Never call 911 to request or report road conditions. When calling 911 to report an emergency, it is critical for callers to stay on the line, even if for an extended series of rings, until the operator answers. Hang-ups due to frustration result in wasted staff time as the 911 center tries to reestablish contact.

While hypothermia is generally associated with being outdoors, it can occur indoors if your thermostat is set too low, or there is a power outage or heating system failure. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, warm the victim up immediately and get medical help as soon as possible.

To help reduce the risk of hypothermia, follow these tips:

  • Conserve heat by avoiding unnecessary opening of doors or windows. Close off unused rooms, stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors and close draperies or cover windows with blankets at night.
  • Monitor body temperature of infants less than one year old. Infants should never sleep in a cold room because they lose body heat more easily than adults and can't make enough body heat by shivering.
  • Check the temperature in your home often if you are over 65 years of age. Older adults often make less body heat because of slower metabolism and less physical activity.
  • Check on elderly friends and neighbors frequently to ensure that their homes are adequately heated.
  • Eating a well-balanced meal will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages as they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.

Individuals should also watch for signs of frostbite. These consist of loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.

Mertz said a home emergency kit should allow a household to survive without outside assistance for at least three days and include basics such as: one gallon of water per person, per day; non-perishable food; extra medication; battery-operated radio and flashlights; first aid kit; and any special needs items such as baby and pet supplies. An emergency kit for a car should contain many of the same items but in smaller quantities, as well as extra warm clothing, blankets and a car cell phone charger.

The commonwealth's ReadyPA campaign encourages citizens to take three basic steps: Be Informed, Be Prepared, Be Involved. More detailed information, including downloadable emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates, is available online at or by calling 1-888-9-READY-PA.

Media contact: Maria A. Finn, 717-651-2009

SOURCE Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency