March 18, 2013 - Office of Risk Management, Winter Storm Warning*

Office of Risk Management

Risk Alert
No. 2013-06
RE:   Winter Storm Warning                                     
March 18, 2013

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Winter Storm Warning for most of Massachusetts except the portion of land from Boston to the South Shore from 9:00 pm this evening until 11:00 a.m. Tuesday. A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for Boston.

The NWS reports that a coastal storm will move across the southern New England coastline tonight and Tuesday and deliver a period of heavy snow followed by sleet, freezing rain and then all rain for some locations. The final snowfall totals will be determined by the timing of the transition from all snow to mixed precipitation. This will result in treacherous travel conditions later tonight and into at least Tuesday morning. There will likely be a high impact on the Tuesday morning commute across much of interior southern New England.

A winter storm warning is issued when an average of six 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.

For up-to-date information, please monitor the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency website.

In the Event of Injury or Damage

If you need immediate assistance with a claim, please call Kent Wilkins at 617-746-5743, or contact a disaster restoration specialist. For recommended specialists, please see our website:

Power Outages – What to Do Immediately Before a Potential Power Outage
Have an emergency kit, flashlights and battery-operated radio ready and accessible.

Disconnect appliances and other electrical items that will automatically go on when service is restored. Power surges can cause significant mechanical damage.

Fully charge your cell phone, other electronic devices, and rechargeable batteries.

If you have a telephone system that requires electricity, such as a cordless phone or answering machine, plan for alternate communication. Have a standard telephone handset or fully-charged cell phone as a back up.

Fill a bathtub or other large basin with water if you are on a well and a heavy storm is predicted. The water can be used for washing or flushing toilets.

During a Power Outage
If you have a refrigerator/freezer on premises, try not to open the doors. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold enough for a few hours. A freezer that is half full will hold for up to 24 hours; a full freezer will hold for 48 hours.

Try not to use candles, but if you do use them, please use extra caution.

If your heat goes out during a storm, close the door of rooms you do not need and dress in layers. If you need to use an alternate heating source such as a kerosene heater, fireplace or wood stove, be sure to have adequate ventilation to the outside. Without ventilation, carbon monoxide fumes can build up in your home and cause sickness or death. Never use a natural gas or propane stove or oven to heat your home.

Disconnect appliances, equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. Power surges can damage equipment such as computers, and motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer or heating system, when power comes back on.

If the outage is prolonged and the weather is cold, open faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.

After the Storm
Be extra cautious if you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm. Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by trees or debris, and could be live. Never attempt to touch or moved downed lines.  Keep children and pets away from them.

Do not touch anything power lines are touching, such as tree branches or fences. Always assume a downed line is a live line. Call your utility company to report any outage-related problem.

If you’re cleaning storm debris, don’t pile it in the road or near utilities poles and equipment. This will only impede emergency responders.

If a power line falls on your car you are at risk of electrical shock - stay inside until a trained person removes the wire. If you are in danger and must leave the car, open a window and jump directly to the ground. Avoid contact with any metal part of the car.

Always inspect trees for loose or fallen limbs after a storm. Again, never remove limbs that have electrical wires running through them; call your electricity provider instead. Any work requiring chainsaws, or work done off the ground, should be performed by a professional. If you are using a chainsaw, however, be sure to wear the proper gear (hard hat, leather gloves and eye and ear protection).

Roof Collapse and Storm 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. Additionally, maintenance personnel should clear storm drains to minimize local flooding problems from this 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, please take into consideration the following tips:

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 abovementioned actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults. Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.

Safe Winter Driving
Before you head out, remove snow and ice from your windshield, headlights, brake lights and anywhere else snow or ice has accumulated. Melting snow from other parts of the car can obstruct visibility. Check your windshield washer fluid and keep your reservoir full. On snowy days, you may go through a half-gallon or more during your commute. Always carry extra fluid in your trunk. Make sure you have enough coolant (antifreeze). Use a mixture of 50% coolant and 50% water, and be sure to check for leaks. Even in the winter, a low coolant level can cause your car to overheat.

Keep bagged sand in your vehicle and use it to provide traction if you get stuck in the snow, or to prevent slips when passengers are getting in and out of your vehicle. Try to keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent the fuel line from freezing.

Wear your seatbelt. 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.

Roads can become icy when the air temperature falls below 40oF. Be especially careful on bridges and highway overpasses as these areas tend to freeze before the rest of the road and can be slippery.

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.

Slow down before you enter a curve or make a turn. Hard braking in the middle of a turn can cause a skid. Use your signals and allow time to change lanes.  Avoid abrupt actions.