News & Press

December 29, 2012 - Winter Snowstorm Risk Alert

Office of Risk Management and Parish Services

Risk Alert

No. 2012-12

RE: Winter Snowstorm

A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect from noon today to 7 a.m. EST Sunday. The
storm will bring a large swath of 3 to 6 inches of snowfall to southern New England, with
an area of 7 to 9 inches across portions of Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts.

A Winter Storm Warning is issued when an average of 6 or more inches of snow is
expected in a 12-hour period, or for 8 or more inches in a 24-hour period. Travel will be
slow at best on well-treated surfaces, and quite difficult on any unplowed or untreated
surfaces.

  • Locations: Rhode Island, northeastern Connecticut and Eastern and south central
    Massachusetts.
  • Hazard types: Heavy snow.
  • Accumulations: snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches.
  • The highest snow accumulations are expected to be away from the coastline.
  • Timing: snow begins early this afternoon with the heaviest snow falling from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., then snow should taper off toward sunrise on Sunday.
  • Impacts: accumulating snow which may make driving difficult. Poor visibility at
    times.

Roof Collapse and Storm Drain Safety Information

If not cleared off, dry, fluffy snow piled on roofs can act as a sponge, absorbing any
additional sleet and rain, adding weight and stress to structures. Flat, commercial roofs
are most susceptible if they are not draining properly. Clear storm drains to minimize
local flooding problems from run-off.

In many cases, roof ice dams can form causing water build-up, leading to interior
damage. To minimize the risk of over-stressing a building roof due to accumulated or
drifting snow:

  • Be on the alert for large accumulating snow build-up or snowdrifts on your roofs.
  • If roof snow can be removed from the ground with the use of a snow rake (available
    at most hardware stores), do so. Use caution, as metal snow rakes conduct electricity
    if they come into contact with a power line.
  • Try to avoid working from ladders, as ladder rungs tend to ice up. Snow and ice
    collect on boot soles, and metal ladders.
  • Flat roofs can be shoveled clear, but only if it is determined that the roof is safe to
    stand upon. Exercise care when on the roof to avoid potentially dangerous falls.
  • Flat roof drainage systems should be kept clear to minimize the risk of excess roof
    ponding in the event of subsequent heavy rainfall or melting.
  • Large icicles can form on roof overhangs, but do not necessarily mean ice damming
    is occurring. Icicles overhanging doorways and walkways can be dangerous and
    should be carefully removed.
  • Because snow is heavy and roofs and other surfaces may be slippery, all of the
    above-mentioned actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults. Protective
    headgear and eye protection is recommended.

Steps for After the Storm has Ended

  • Be careful when shoveling snow. Over-exertion can bring on a heart attack – a major
    cause of death in the winter.
  • Protect yourself by dressing for the season, wearing several layers of loose fitting,
    lightweight, warm clothing, rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer
    garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Mittens are better than gloves.
  • Wear a hat, as most body heat is lost through the top of the head.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in the
    extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are
    detected, seek medical help immediately.  for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss,
    disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If
    symptoms are detected, get medical help, as soon as possible.
  • Do not become a ‘spectator.’ Continue to stay off streets and roads to allow plowing
    and clean-up operations to proceed smoothly.
  • Help dig out fire hydrants and storm drains in your neighborhood.
  • Avoid parking too close to corners, allowing Public Safety vehicles and plows to
    maneuver safely.
  • Be aware of children playing in the streets, particularly climbing on or running out
    from behind large snowdrifts. Parents should remind their children to be aware of
    plowing operations and traffic.
  • Clear exhaust vents from Direct Vent Gas Furnace Systems to avoid Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Never run an automobile until exhaust pipe has been cleared of snow.
  • Safely reduce the amount of snow on roofs. The stress caused by heavy wet snow can
    challenge the integrity of the structure.
  • Use care around downed power lines. Assume a down wire is a live wire.
  • Make sure emergency generators or secondary heating systems are well ventilated.
  • In order to protect against possible voltage irregularities that can occur when power
    is restored, you should unplug all sensitive electronic equipment, including TVs,
    stereos, VCRs, microwave ovens, computers, cordless telephones, answering
    machines and garage door openers. Be sure to leave one light on, so you will know
    when power is restored.
  • If your area has very wet snow or freezing rain, be aware that the weight of a one-
    half inch build-up of ice can be enough to snap tree limbs, causing them to fall and bring down power lines disrupting electrical service and introducing potential life-threatening situations. Never approach a downed line unless you are trained
    to perform such work. Remember also to consider the weight of wet snow when shoveling.
  • If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the
    doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets. Food provides the body
    with energy for producing its own heat.
  • Be extra cautious if you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm. Downed or
    hanging electrical wires can be hidden by snowdrifts, trees or debris, and could be
    live. Never attempt to touch or move downed lines. Keep children and pets away
    from them.
  • Do not touch anything that power lines are touching, such as tree branches or fences.
    Call your utility company to report any outage-related problem.
  • Make sure you always have a well-stocked Winter Emergency Supply Kit that includes a flash light, a portable radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a manual can opener. The use of candles is strongly disouraged.
  • If pipes freeze, remove insulation, completely open all faucets and pour hot water
    over the pipes, starting where they are most exposed to the cold. A hand-held hair
    dryer, used with caution, also works well.
  • Snow can be melted for an additional water source.
  • Call the MEMA Information Telephone Service 2-1-1 for non-emergency storm-
    related questions.

Safe Winter Driving

  • Before you head out, remove snow and ice from your windshield, headlights,
    brake lights, and anywhere else snow has accumulated. Melting snow from other
    parts of the car can obstruct visibility.
  • Try to keep your gas tank full – you never know when you may be stranded in
    standstill traffic, miles from the nearest gas station. Also, having a tank at least
    half full helps prevent the fuel line from freezing.
  • Roads can become icy when the air temperature falls below 40 degrees
    Fahrenheit. Be especially careful on bridges and highway overpasses as these
    areas tend to freeze before the rest of the road and can be slippery.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Wear sunglasses – winter sun on snow and ice can be blinding.
  • Plan ahead. Have your directions handy or, if you have a GPS, program it ahead
    of time so that you will not be fussing with it while driving.
  • Drive slowly. Maintain at least 8-10 seconds behind the car in front of you.
  • Avoid distractions, especially cell phones and other mobile devices. Studies
    show that phone conversation tasks typically decreased driver reaction times and
    increased lane deviations. In hazardous weather, every second of reaction time
    counts.
  • Leave extra time to get where you are going.
  • Use your signals and allow time to change lanes.
  • Avoid abrupt actions.

For further information or to report a claim, please contact the Office of Risk
Management & Parish Services at 617-746-5743.