News

Nasty weather on its way

Valley residents should get ready for cold temperatures and potential bad weather in the coming weekend.

State officials and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire put out calls to prepare for a wintry onslaught of high winds, coastal area flooding, cold temperatures and snow starting Friday, Dec. 12.

Art Gaebel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Seattle, said residents in the Cascade foothills can expect several inches of snow late Friday, with cold temperatures in the teens or lower setting in through next week.

For most of the autumn, the region has escaped the normal winter pattern of cold air coming in from the north.

Now, the patten has shifted.

"Finally, wintertime is here," Gaebel said. "It's not going to go back anytime soon."

At home

“The approach of the season’s first winter storm means it’s a good time to review emergency preparedness for homes, businesses and schools,” said Jim Mullen, director, Washington Emergency

Management Division. “Check and restock those all-important 72-hour emergency kits with fresh water, food, prescription medication, flashlight and radio batteries, and all the rest of your emergency supplies.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning is always a concern during power outages. It’s a poisonous gas that cannot be seen or smelled. It can kill a person in minutes. During Washington’s 2006 wind storm, eight people died and around 400 people were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

To avoid carbon monoxide, never use generators or other gasoline-powered equipment indoors, in garages, in carports, or near open windows. Don’t use generators unless you have carbon monoxide detectors in place. If the detector goes off, your generator is too close and should be moved. Also, never cook or heat inside using a charcoal or gas grill. Local health agencies have fact sheets available about carbon monoxide. This information is also available in several languages on the Washington Department of Health’s Web site, www.doh.wa.gov.

For homes that rely on a woodstove for heat, residents shoyld take the following steps to reduce smoke and wood pollution:

• Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Be sure your firewood has been split and dried for at least one year. Store it under cover.

• Never burn wet, painted, stained or treated wood; colored newsprint; plastic; garbage; diapers; or magazines.

• Burn small, hot fires. This helps the wood burn completely and cleanly.

• Never allow the fire to smolder. This wastes wood, produces little heat, and causes a lot of smoke.

• Make sure your fire gets enough air. Dampering down too much can cause smoldering. You can tell if your fire has enough air by checking the smoke coming from your chimney. You should see only heat waves. If you see smoke, increase the air supply to your fire.

• Make sure your wood stove is the right size for its space. A stove that is too large for the space it is heating will have to be damped down, causing more smoke.

• Make sure your stove is properly installed.

Driving

Drivers who are ready for the weather and drive safely can help both the state and themselves. On ice and snow, drivers should take it slow. Information is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter about how to prepare your car. Commuters should know the weather forecast, maintain their car, install the proper tires, and prepare for winter conditions. One spin out can block traffic for hours and cause additional incidents. Clearing these accidents can also take crews away from road-clearing activities.

Drivers should:

• Plan extra time to cross all mountain passes, including heavily-traveled routes such as Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, and White Pass.

• Carry chains and know the traction and chain requirements. Mountain pass traction and chain requirements are available on highway advisory signs and highway advisory radio. When those

advisories call for chains, drivers who don't chain up will face a $500 penalty.

• Know before you go. Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov before leaving your home or office. Follow media releases, read the the Washington State Department of Transportation blog, sign up for WSDOT's listserv and RSS feeds, see WSDOT pictures on Flickr and videos on YouTube at www.wsdot.wa.gov/news. At www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/weather, drivers can look at weather forecasts and road temperatures throughout the state.

• On the road, pay attention to overhead and roadside electronic signs , which provide emergency and incident alerts. For highway advisory radio, yellow signs with flashing lights alert drivers to tune into radio frequencies airing updates. WSDOT advises drivers to program 530AM and 1610AM on their radio.

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