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Governor declares state of emergency due to weather

Roy Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper

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The Associated Press

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says state officials are treating a quick-moving storm in eastern North Carolina seriously because of its expected combination of freezing rain, snow and high winds, followed by continued frigid temperatures.

Cooper said Wednesday at a pre-storm news conference that he was worried about people who could lose power during the storm and their ability to heat their homes. Since temperatures are expected to remain at or below freezing for the next several days, Cooper said it may be more difficult for first responders and transportation crews to work.

Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina. The governor advised people to avoid traveling during the forecast winter storm.

Cooper said eight hundred Department of Transportation employees already are involved in anti-icing operations on state roads. Still, the governor urged people in affected areas to stay off roads Wednesday night and Thursday because they could become dangerous.

State officials began preparing for the storm on Tuesday, according to a news release from the department.

“Bitter cold air from an arctic high pressure system means temperatures statewide are expected to average well below normal for the rest of the week,” the department said.

State emergency management officials encourage people to continue to monitor the National Weather Service for updated forecasts. Emergency managers and meteorologists at North Carolina Emergency Management are tracking the storm closely and are prepared to assist counties with any storm-related needs.

Motorists in areas hit by the winter storm should expect treacherous driving conditions into this morning. North Carolina Department of Transportation maintenance crews are brining major roadways, bridges, overpasses and other common trouble spots in anticipation of the winter weather.

The department said the extremely cold temperatures mean any precipitation that falls could be more difficult to clear from the roads.

“Brine can only be applied when temperatures are above 20 degrees, as the salt-water brine solution can freeze onto the roadways and create icy conditions when temperatures are in the teens,” the department said. “Extreme cold in the evening and overnight also limits the ability of salt to melt snow and ice on roadways. Crews will need to wait for the rising temperature during the daytime to clear any ice.”

N.C. Emergency Management director Mike Sprayberry said these extreme cold temperatures can be life-threatening if people lose power and heat.

“Many counties are ready with plans for warming centers, should they be needed,” he said. “People should make sure they are ready for the cold, and should stay off the roads while conditions are dangerous.”

HEALTH TIPS

North Carolina health officials are encouraging residents to take health and safety precautions during the winter months.

“Cold temperatures can present a challenge for everyone across the state, especially our most vulnerable residents,” said State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson. “Basic prevention measures and knowledge of local resources can help during the winter months.”

Cold weather safety

Cold temperatures can cause the body to lose heat faster than it is produced, which can lead to serious health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia. In 2016, there were 1,173 emergency department visits in North Carolina for cold weather-related illnesses. Populations at highest risk of these health problems include people 65 and older, infants, children, people who spend time outdoors for long periods of time, and people who drink alcohol in excess or use illicit drugs. To protect against these health problems:

■ Wear warm, dry clothing and make sure body parts most often affected by frostbite are covered (nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin, fingers)

■ Limit time outside during cold temperatures and seek shelter in a warm, dry place

■ Check on others who might be at risk for cold weather-related illness

■ Seek care if hypothermia or frostbite is suspected

For more information, including the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/index.html.

Carbon monoxide safety

In 2016, 295 people required emergency department care for unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning in North Carolina. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

■ Never use a gas-powered generator or other fuel-burning appliances indoors or in the garage

■ Never use charcoal grills or propane stoves indoors, even in a fireplace

■ Never use a gas oven to heat a home, even for a short amount of time

■ Install a carbon monoxide alarm with an Underwriters Laboratory UL™ listing on each level of a home and near all sleeping areas. Carefully follow the directions to ensure proper alarm placement and check the batteries regularly.

■ Replace alarms more than seven years old or when end-of-service indicator chirps

■ Evacuate and call 9-1-1 if a carbon monoxide alarm sounds

For more information on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/oee/a_z/co.html.

Food safety without power

When power is lost, all refrigerated and frozen food should be evaluated before being used or refrozen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers the following food safety information for anticipated power outages:

Frozen, partially thawed food is safe to cook or refreeze if it still contains ice crystals or has not risen above 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep refrigerated foods at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit and frozen food at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.

Low-Income Energy Assistance Program

For many of North Carolina’s most vulnerable residents, meeting the expense of household heating during the cold of winter may be a challenge. County departments of social services are accepting applications for the state's Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, which provides one-time federal heating payment assistance to those who qualify. The program provided approximately $38 million to help more than 120,000 households pay their heating bills from December 2016 to March 2017.

Funds are available until March 31 or until funds are exhausted. County departments of social services can provide more information on eligibility and how to apply: www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/dss/local-county-social-services-offices.

Flu season

So far this flu season, there have been 12 flu-related deaths reported to the Division of Public Health. Flu can be a serious illness, especially for adults older than 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

DHHS encourages vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older, and the following precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses during the winter months:

■ Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours

■ Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly

■ Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water

​■ For more information on flu and to learn where to get a flu vaccination, visit flu.nc.gov.

For more information on how to prepare for winter-related events, download the free ReadyNC app, or visit www.readync.org for real-time traffic and weather conditions, open shelters and items needed in emergency supply kits.

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