KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Weather models and professional prognosticators such as the WATE 6 Storm Team are tracking a potential Arctic air mass that could affect much of the southeast United States. While those residing down south may not be all too used to frequent colder temperatures, there are some things to keep in mind to prepare for the coming cold.
The frigid air could potentially arrive in East Tennessee late Thursday into Friday after some scattered rain showers, according to the WATE 6 Storm Team, with a slight chance for a light wintry mix. Temperatures are also expected to plunge later in the week.
If you’re wondering what steps need to be taken for preparing your home, your vehicle, your children, elderly loved ones, and pets in your life that could be affected by the winter weather, we’ve got it covered like snowfall on an East Tennessee mountain lodge.
Below are some reminders and links to stories related to keeping safe in winter weather. Keep in mind that some of the content is from our sister stations across Nexstar Nation.
Home is a sacred place; dwelling spaces often require much maintenance and homeowners and renters alike need to be aware of what steps to take to prepare their home appliances, pipes and more ahead of frigid temperatures. The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) says the more temperatures drop, the greater the risk to lives and property.
- Food: Make sure you and your family as well as pets have enough food in case leaving the home isn’t possible or safe. Non-perishable items and stored water are ideal for emergency situations.
- Water for cooking, consumption and other household needs
- Fireplace/wood stove: The CDC says if you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, make sure your chimney or flue has been inspected. Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector or find one online.
- Generator and gas, if needed.
- Pipes: A master plumber shared with WATE earlier this year that the most common call they receive after winter weather blows through is that the water isn’t coming out of the sinks. To prevent that, he advised to first make sure garden hoses are taken off the spigots, then cover the spigots with insulation.
- It’s also important to check the house for any exposed pipes; some are found in the attic or crawl space. Insulation isn’t enough to keep those exposed pipes warm – so use heat tape that can be found at any local home service store.
- Another safety measure to take is letting the faucets closest to the outside or exposed pipes drip warm water the night before a freeze.
- Heavy coats and blankets; layers of clothing if needed.
- Batteries, flashlights, lamps, chargers.
- Hand-crank radio or flashlight.
Not only are vehicles valuable for commuting to events or a place of work (unless you’re lucky enough to work from home), steps must be taken to prepare a personal vehicle for driving in winter weather – as well as keeping it filled with the right supplies.
Before leaving home, be prepared for the weather
- Check local news websites, such as WATE.com, and download local news and weather apps that send alerts straight to your phone from the National Weather Service.
- Clear the snow off all of your vehicle’s windows and lights, including brake lights and turn signals. Make sure you can see and be seen. Always buckle up.
- Give yourself extra time to reach your destination safely. It’s not worth putting yourself and others in a dangerous situation just to be on time.
- Winter conditions can harm your vehicle. Check your vehicle’s tires, brakes, fluids, wiper blades, lights, belts, and hoses to make sure they‘re in good condition before the start of the winter season.
- Be prepared for emergency situations. Take a cell phone and keep it charged so you can call for help.
- Keep an emergency safety kit in your vehicle that includes a warm blanket, water, a flashlight, reflectors, jumper cables, a first aid kit and an empty gas can. It’s also a good idea to have a pair of gloves.
While most children love a solid snow day or a fun time amid winter weather activities (sledding, ice skating, snowball fights!), medical professionals say keeping children properly equipped for playing outside – or keeping them occupied inside if the weather is too dangerous – is important for safety.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are more at risk from the cold than adults because their bodies are smaller and lose heat quicker. If your child plans to head outside for wintertime fun, be sure they’re dressed right and know when it’s time to come inside to warm back up; experts say children exposed to extreme cold for too long and without warm, dry, breathable clothing can get frostbite or even hypothermia.
Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics via HealthyChildren.org
- Check the wind chill: In general, playing outside in temperatures or wind chills below -15° Fahrenheit should be avoided. At these temperatures, exposed skin begins to freeze within minutes.
- What to wear: Several thin layers will help keep kids warm and dry. Insulated boots, mittens or gloves, and a hat are essential. Make sure children change out of any wet clothes right away.
- Take breaks: Set reasonable limits on the amount of time spent playing outside to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure kids have a place to go for regular indoor breaks to warm up.
Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by colder temperatures; as they can lose body heat faster than when they were young, according to the National Institute on Aging. Experts remind senior citizens or the elderly to remain indoors during cold weather and do the following:
- If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. The ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age.
- Keep medications nearby, easy-to-read and accessible.
- Make sure there’s enough food and water in the home or residence.
- Check the temperature of the home often during the winter months.
- Keep warn inside: Set the heat to at least 68-70°F.
- Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear socks and slippers.
- When you go to sleep, wear long underwear under your pajamas, and use extra covers. Wear a cap or hat.
- Ask family or friends to check on you during cold weather. If a power outage leaves you without heat, try to stay with a relative or friend.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that pet owners bring their pets indoors or provide adequate shelter amid freezing or below-freezing winter weather. Also, make sure your pets have access to unfrozen water.
Young-Williams Animal Center also says to keep pets indoors if temps are below freezing. But if you absolutely must leave pets outside for a limited amount of time, provide your pets with a shelter for them to retreat to that should be dry, draft-free and well-insulated.
According to Pet MD, dogs are at risk of hypothermia and frostbite once temperatures drop below 20°F Fahrenheit.
Keep plenty of pet food and supplies at the home and/or with you if you must go anywhere with your pets.
Energy bills can be costly but it’s important to keep the heat going amid winter weather. The Tennessee Valley Authority states on its website: “While some people might think the Tennessee Valley is always warm, the cold truth is that winter weather hits here, and can hit surprisingly hard. And as a rule, when temperatures go down, thermostats go up—leading to an increase in electric bills.”
Some tips from the Tennessee Valley Authority include the following:
- Let there be light—Keep curtains open on the south side of the house and closed on the north during the day to trap the warming sunlight.
- Increase your home’s EQ—Install an ENERGY STAR certified programmable thermostat.
- Flip it off—Turn off lights in rooms and turn down the heat when you’re out of the house. TVA offers stickers you can put around the house to help remind you to be vigilant about your efficiency practices.
- Wrap it up—Use a TVA Quality Contractor to insulate heating and cooling ducts and repair any air leaks, as well as add insulation to your attic, crawlspaces and any accessible exterior walls.
- Check your temp—Set your water heater to 120 degrees. 120 degrees is hot enough to provide plenty of hot water to the home, but doesn’t not waste energy by heating water to a temperature that can be dangerous.
- Close the damper—Don’t send warm air up the chimney. Make sure the fireplace damper is closed when not in use.
- Cut a rug—Use area rugs if you have hardwood or tile floors to keep your feet warm.
- Create breathing room—Keep weeds and debris away from the outdoor unit of your heating system.
- Bundle up—Use layered clothing to keep the warmth in.
- Adjust your ceiling fans—Set ceiling fans to run counterclockwise. Heat that has risen to the ceiling will be more evenly dispersed throughout the room.