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This Week is North Carolina’s Winter Weather Preparedness Week


This week begins North Carolina’s official ‘Winter Weather Preparedness Week’. The National Weather Service (NWS) and North Carolina Emergency Management Division is now urging all North Carolinians to get informed about winter storms and stock up on basic preparedness supplies in case of power outages, prolonged icy roads, or other winter emergencies.

This morning, the NWS just released the following public information statement:

ANATOMY OF WINTER STORMS: 

WINTER WEATHER IS THE MOST COMPLEX WEATHER PHENOMENA THAT FORECASTERS
FACE IN NORTH CAROLINA. WINTER STORMS BRING SIGNIFICANT AND SOMETIMES
RAPID CHANGES IN THE WEATHER WHICH GREATLY AFFECTS OUR LIVES AND SAFETY.
WINTER STORMS CAN DEVELOP AND LAST FOR JUST A FEW HOURS OR LINGER FOR
DAYS. SOME OF THE WORST WINTER STORMS IN NORTH CAROLINA PRODUCING HEAVY
SNOW AND ICE HAVE TRAPPED PEOPLE IN THEIR CARS, AND ISOLATED RESIDENTS
IN THEIR HOMES WITHOUT UTILITIES AND OTHER SERVICES FOR OVER A WEEK.
EVEN SMALL AMOUNTS OF SNOW AND ICE CAN CREATE HAVOC. JUST A LITTLE
BIT OF SNOW IN COMBINATION VERY COLD TEMPERATURES AND THE TIME OF 
DAY CAN CREATE DANGEROUS CONDITIONS CRIPPLING MAJOR CITIES. 

WINTER STORMS RESULT FROM A VARIETY OF WEATHER PATTERNS. NORTH 
CAROLINA SITS IN THE BATTLEGROUND BETWEEN COLD AIR FROM THE NORTH 
AND WARM MOIST AIR FROM THE SOUTH. THE TIMING OF THE COLD AIR 
COLLIDING WITH MOISTURE STREAMING IN FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO AND 
ATLANTIC OCEAN TYPICALLY DICTATES THE TYPE OF PRECIPITATION YOU SEE 
FALLING IN YOUR BACKYARD. GEOGRAPHY ALSO PLAYS A LARGE ROLE IN OUR 
WEATHER. THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS TO THE WEST AND THE WARM WATERS 
OF THE GULF STREAM JUST OFF THE COAST BOTH PLAY VITAL ROLES IN WINTER
STORM DEVELOPMENT. THE MOUNTAINS ACT TO PILE UP COLD AIR OVER THE
STATE WHILE THE WARM WATERS OF THE GULF STREAM PROVIDE MOISTURE AND
LOTS OF ENERGY TO WINTER STORMS. 

THE MOST COMMON AND DANGEROUS WEATHER SYSTEMS WHICH CAN PRODUCE SNOW 
AND ICE ARE STRONG COASTAL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEMS KNOWN AS NOR'EASTERS.
NOR'EASTERS ARE LOW PRESSURE SYSTEMS WHICH DEVELOP OVER THE OCEAN
AND TRACK NORTHEAST ALONG THE COAST. THE REASON NORTH CAROLINA WATERS
ARE SO FAVORABLE FOR NOR'EASTER DEVELOPMENT IS DUE TO THE PROXIMITY
OF THE GULF STREAM. WHEN COLD AIR RUSHES OUT OVER THE OCEAN AND 
THE GULF STREAM, A VERY UNSTABLE AND VOLATILE SITUATION IS CREATED.
WHEN THIS INSTABILITY COMBINES WITH THE JET STREAM IN THE UPPER 
LEVELS OF THE ATMOSPHERE, A MASSIVE LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM KNOWN AS A
NOR'EASTER CAN DEVELOP. 

COLD AIR DAMMING TYPICALLY IMPACTS THE CENTRAL AND WESTERN PORTIONS 
OF THE STATE. THIS OCCURS WHEN COLD HIGH PRESSURE OVER NEW YORK AND 
PENNSYLVANIA PUSHES COLD AIR SOUTH INTO THE CAROLINAS. THIS COLD AIR 
IS HEAVY AND PILES UP AGAINST THE MOUNTAINS AS IT RUSHES SOUTH. THE 
MOUNTAINS ACT AS A DAM CAUSING THE COLD AIR TO DEEPEN ACROSS THE 
PIEDMONT AND SOMETIMES AS FAR EAST AS THE COASTAL PLAIN. WHEN LIGHTER,
WARM MOIST AIR COMING UP FROM THE SOUTH OVERRUNS THE COLD AIR AT THE
SURFACE, FREEZING RAIN, SLEET AND SNOW CAN RESULT. 

WINTER STORMS CAN MAKE DRIVING AND WALKING EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. THE 
AFTERMATH OF A MAJOR WINTER STORM CAN HAVE A DEVASTATING IMPACT FOR 
DAYS, WEEKS, OR EVEN MONTHS. WINTER STORMS CAN BE DECEPTIVE KILLERS 
BECAUSE MOST DEATHS ARE INDIRECTLY RELATED TO THE STORM. PEOPLE DIE 
IN TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS ON ICY ROADS, HAVE HEART ATTACKS WHILE SHOVELING
SNOW, OR SUCCUMB TO FIRES OR CARBON MONOXIDE WHILE TRYING THE HEAT
THEIR HOME IMPROPERLY. HOWEVER, WITH PROPER PLANNING AND PREPARATION,
YOU CAN LIMIT OR EVEN MITIGATE THE IMPACTS FROM WINTER STORMS.

To prepare your car, top off all your fluids, especially your oilpower steering fluid, and antifreeze. You’ll also want to check your tires and make sure your air pressure is over 32 PSI.

To prepare your home, make sure to drain all fountains and exterior water fixtures. Always let at least one of your faucets drip to avoid freezing pipes. Consider buying a humidifier if you’re sensitive to dry air. If you have an older home with older windows, investing in some shrink film insulation will save you a ton on your heating bill.

To prepare yourself, buy some thermal gloves, a warm hat, and a winter jacket. If you’re going to spend any length of time outside, you may even want to consider buying an electric heating jacket.

If you have a pet – make sure to read our article about how to keep your furry friend warm!

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