EATON — Preble County’s Winter Preparedness meeting was held on Wednesday, Nov. 13, and featured presentations from Preble County Engineer Kyle Cross, WHIO Meteorologist Dontae Jones, Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson, and Preble County EMA Director David Anderson.
Cross started by addressing the snowfall earlier in the week.
“Typically, we try to have this [meeting] before the winter. We planned it the way it worked out, so we had a trial run yesterday to get everybody in the mindset for winter and everything fresh in their mind for today,” he said.
Highway Superintendent Kevin Nelson and Safety/Right of Way Coordinator Jim Ray gave an update on operations and routes.
“We have nine routes: four tandems, one tandem axle truck in each quarter, and we have five single-axles. It generally takes us four hours, depending on the snow. Two hours if we just treat, but four to five if we have to plow both ways and treat. We rely on rovers, if we know we have a snow event coming, we call the rovers out. I have a rover in every quarter of the county. He looks at the roads, calls me, and we make a decision on how we’re going to treat it,” Nelson said. “We have a barn full of salt, so we’re in pretty good shape there.”
Ray stressed, communication is the most important aspect of their relationship with departments. He told those gathered to reach out and call the Engineer’s Office if they’re ever “beyond their means.” Ray also stressed to be prepared for the weather and not to get “complacent.”
Jones shared his own personal journey to becoming a WHIO Meteorologist and his history with severe weather, including flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes. He then talked about how meteorologists use models and their own education to make their weather calls.
“Sometimes, you have to trust your gut more than your model. You have to trust what you know and it really helps if you’ve been a forecaster in an area for a long time, because you get used to those [weather] patterns,” he said. “If you’re looking at the models, but I’ve been in the area for 20 years and I remember the pattern set up and it yields this type of weather, however the models tell me something different.
“We can, on our own as bona fide meteorologists, we say, ‘I’m not going to go with that, I’m going to go with what my hunch is.’ But as guidance, we always start [with the models.] In situations where it is a complicated forecast, [meteorologists] have to rely on [our] own expertise and decide what [we] think is going to happen.”
Sheriff Simpson reviewed snow advisories with those gathered, explaining that the Sheriff’s Office decides on a snow advisory by consulting with the Preble County Engineer’s Office. They post their decision on the website and radio broadcast the current level.
“We have three levels: one, two, and three. The level one snow advisory means the roadways are snow covered and hazardous and motorists are urged to drive cautiously. Level two – which normally gets most people’s attention in this room — means the roadway is hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Roadways can be very icy and only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be on the roadways. People should contact their employers to see if they should report to work,” Simpson said.
“Level three means all roadways are closed to non-emergency traffic and personnel. No one should be driving under this condition unless it is absolutely necessary or a personal emergency exists. All employees should contact their employees to see if they should report to work. Anyone traveling on the roads may subject themselves to arrest. A little caveat on that, if we get to the point where we are at a level three, that starts effecting a lot of people.
“Safety is the number one factor. When the County Engineer tells us they can’t plow, that is a red flag for us. We take it very seriously. I don’t want to put a level out, just to put a level out. I rely heavily on Kyle [Cross] and his staff. We don’t want people stuck, because we’re trying to handle calls for service and people stuck in snow. It creates a lot of issues. We rarely arrest anyone or cite anyone, but we have done it.”
He added, if nursing homes or medical facilities have critical personnel, they should carry their ID badges during a snow emergency.
“Our goal is to get them where they need to go. If you have something special, call us, communicate with us, and let us know, but we try to get those critical people [to work],” he said. “Our number one goal is safety out on the roadways.”
EMA Director Anderson gave the following Winter Survival Tips:
•Carry a Winter Survival Kit in your car, including a fold-able shovel, ice scraper, flashlight with extra batteries, battery powered radio, bottled water, snack food with energy bars, matches and small candles, extra hats, socks, and mittens, first aid kit with pocket knife, necessary medications, blankets or sleeping bag, tow chain or rope, road salt or cat litter for traction, jumper cables, emergency flares and reflectors, florescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention, and cell phone charger that plugs into lighter.
•When packing your kit, remember to reverse batters in flashlight to avoid accidental switching on and burnout, store items in the passenger compartment in case the trunk is jammed or frozen shut, and choose small packages of food that can be eaten hot or cold.
•When calling 911, provide your location, condition of everyone in the vehicle, and the problem you’re experiencing. Follow instructions, you may be told to stay where you are until help arrives. Do not hang up until you know who you have spoken with and what will happen next. If you must leave your vehicle, write down your dame, address, phone number, and destination. Place the piece of paper inside the front windshield for someone to see.
•Before leaving, plan your trip carefully. Listen to weather reports for your area and the area you will be traveling to. You can check Ohio road conditions by visiting www.ohgo.com or other states in the area at www.weather.gov/ind/roadreports.
•Prepare your vehicle for your trip. Before winter, you or a mechanic should check over the car – battery, antifreeze, exhaust, windshield wipers and washer fluid, and lights. Make sure you keep your gas tank at least half full and consider winter tires.
•Be sure you can be found — tell someone where you’re going, the route you will take, and when you expect to get there.
•If stuck, stay calm. Tie a florescent flag on your antenna or hang it out the window. If possible, keep the hood and roof clear of snow, this will allow someone to see you. At night, keep your dome light on. Rescue crews can see a small glow at a distance. To reduce batter drain, use your emergency flashers only if you hear approaching vehicles. If you’re with someone else, make sure at least one person is awake and keeping watch for help at all times.
•Stay in your vehicle, as walking in a storm can be very dangerous. Your vehicle is good shelter.
•Take care of yourself and any others when shoveling snow or pushing your car in storm conditions. Don’t risk a heart attack or injury. That work can also make you hot and sweaty — wet clothing loses insulation value, making you susceptible to hypothermia. Check your hands and feet often for frostbite.
•It’s better to be cold and awake than comfortably warm and sleepy. Snow can plug your vehicles exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your car. Only run the engine for 10 minutes an hour and make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow. Keeping a window open a crack while running the engine is also a good idea.
•Don’t expect to be comfortable – you want to survive until you’re found.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH