County urges public to prepare for winter weather hazards

The Sussex County Emergency Operations Center this week reminded the public that hazard preparation is a must before any season, whether it’s ahead of hurricane season, which ended in November, or the nor’easter season that typically runs from now until to March. Residents and property owners are being encouraged to check supplies, monitor weather conditions and take appropriate action if directed this winter season.

“We are fortunate here in Sussex County that the 2019 tropical season was one that was, for all intents and purposes, uneventful,” Sussex County EOC Director Joseph L. Thomas said. “That said, this is no time to let down our collective guard. The winter months present their own set of challenges, and nor’easters especially have historically been our more significant weather-makers. So the public should remain vigilant, and take the necessary steps now to transition and be ready for the colder months ahead.”

Over the years, Sussex County has experienced its share of harsh winter seasons, including the “polar vortex” that brought extreme cold to the region in early 2014, as well as back-to-back blizzards in 2009 and 2010 that closed schools, stranded motorists, scoured beaches and knocked out power across the county. And already this season, Sussex County has seen its first taste of winter, with brief cold shots in October and November, and even a short-lived snow squall prior to Thanksgiving.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s seasonal outlook for this winter (December through February) predicts better than average chances for warmer temperatures and wetter conditions in Sussex County. Forecasters in mid-October, when the outlook was released, did not expect the development this season of an El Niño or La Niña pattern, the phenomena of warming and cooling waters in the east-central Pacific Ocean, respectively, that can have global effects on weather patterns. Instead, forecasts are relying on long-term trends for this year’s forecast.

Whatever unfolds this season, to ensure people are prepared for winter weather, the Sussex County EOC suggested a number of preventive actions.

Before the storm:

• Spread an ice melting agent on walkways and driveways to keep surfaces free of ice; use sand to improve traction;

• Have snow shovels and other equipment handy;

• Winterize your vehicle:

• Ensure antifreeze levels are sufficient to avoid freezing;

• Ensure the heater and defroster work properly;

• Check lights and flashing hazard lights for serviceability;

• Pack a winterization kit that includes an ice scraper, de-icer for door locks, blankets and sand or kitty litter to provide grip if your vehicle becomes stranded;

• Create a Safety Profile for your household with the County’s free Smart911.com service to provide potentially life-saving information in advance.

During the storm:

• Listen to television, radio or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information. Also, visit the Sussex County EOC website and its social media channels, including Facebook at www.facebook.com/SussexCountyEOC and Twitter at www.twitter.com/SussexCtyDE_EOC, for up-to-date information;

• Eat regularly and drink ample fluids; avoid caffeine and alcohol;

• Conserve fuel and power, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms;

• Limit unnecessary travel and heed all advisories and warnings.

Dress for the weather:

• Wear layers of loose-fitting, thin, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellant;

• Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves, as well as a hat;

• Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

For more winter weather information and helpful tips, visit the Sussex County website at www.sussexcountyde.gov/emergency-preparedness and click on the “Other Hazards” link on the left to download a guide about preparing for winter storms and other types of hazardous events.