Welcome to the First Weather Team's Winter Weather Emergency Help Page. Please bookmark this page as a guide in case of severe winter weather. You'll find many valuable resources on this page, including Meteorologist Megan Krannig's three-part series "Winter Weather Worries, as well as several links to pertinent information that you'll have at you fingertips when you need it most.
Winter Weather Worries: Your home
Reporter: Megan Krannig
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
By now you've probably pulled the sweaters out of mothballs and found the gloves at the bottom of the coat closet, but is your home as ready as you are for the winter?
As winter closes in, there are a few things to check to help you and your family have a safe winter.
It’s been a while since the heater has been turned on, and it's a good idea to check a few things before you start it up. A good place to start is with the filter.
"The filter is the main thing on it because it's just like you trying to walk and breathe through a straw. Air conditioning and heating revolve around air flow. The more air flow you have, the more heating and more cooling you have, so it all revolves around that filter being cleaned and changed."
Old or new, heating and A/C professionals say the furnace needs to be checked yearly, but it's not the only thing that requires a little maintenance.
"Coming up in the attic like we are right now, looking at your burners, this furnace here is prime example of a furnace that will collect rust, so you need to pull the burners out, service that, blow out the pilot, most service techs have a carbon monoxide detector so you can check to see if you have carbon monoxide coming out of the furnace, check the vent and then you just have to light it and go from there," says Brad Sisemore of Sisemore Heating & Air.
Making sure there aren't any carbon monoxide leaks is very important.
"Carbon monoxide has no taste, no odor, anything. It’s what they call ‘the silent killer,’" Sisemore adds.
Every home should have carbon monoxide detectors. Brad Sisemore has been in the heating and cooling business for almost a decade.
He says a good location for the detector is anywhere by your furnace or in a central location of the house.
After checking the heating system, don't forget your pipes. Water inside pipes will expand when it freezes, and that can cause plenty of headaches, but there are some simple things you can do to keep that from happening.
"You can open up the kitchen cabinets and let some heat from the house get to the underneath of the cabinets, and keep under the cabinets warm," plumber Dan Williams says.
Experts suggest you go around the outside of your house and make sure the water hoses are disconnected and the faucets are covered.
If you don't- "The cold will travel up through the hose and freeze the pipe going underneath the house," Williams says.
By doing a few maintenance checks both inside and out you will save time and money, both things we all could use more of this time of year with the holidays just around the corner.
Winter Weather Worries: Your car
Climate changes don't affect just you. They also affect your car, your home, and your pets.
In part one of a three-part series we're helping you make sure everything is right with your ride.
We've all had to do it at some point or another- sit inside a car service waiting room because our cars need a quick fix. With the winter weather not too far off, you want to make sure your car is in tip-top shape.
A good place to start is to keep an eye on the gages.
"There are warnings there that are going to let you know if you are having problems."
Check those fluids. Some technicians say the most important thing is the cooling system. Automotive technician Matt Probst says, "If your cooling system hasn't been serviced, it needs to be serviced. You have to have good coolant in it, otherwise it will break down cause corrosion and cause problems."
Antifreeze is especially important in winter because it keeps the engine, radiator and hoses from freezing.
"Check and make sure its not going to freeze, the levels are right, supposed to be a 50/50 mix. If it is more water than antifreeze, it will freeze at a much higher temperature."
While under the hood, examine the belts and hoses. Probst says just about anybody can tell if something needs to be fixed- with just a glance.
"If it looks puffy or if it has seepage or any coloration around the hose, like orange or green, might look crusty that indicates a problem or leak."
When you are done under the hood, check out the tires. We've all heard about keeping the right amount of air in our tires, and experts say that's especially true in the colder months.
"For every 10 degrees the temperature drops the air in your tires will lose 1 to 2 pounds of air."
The best time to check tire pressure is when it's cold, in the morning, or before the car has been driven that day. Tire condition is also just as important this time of year. Look for worn or cracked spots.
"All tires have what is called a tread indicator wear bar on it, make sure the tread is not at or below that."
Discount Tire's Bobby Hill also recommends to rotate tires every 6,000 miles, make sure the balance is good and that your tires aren't too old, "Make sure tires aren't older than 6 years because the compounds in the tire will begin to deteriorate and break down."
It's a good idea to keep an emergency kit in the trunk with a blanket, First Aid kit, flashlight, water and a few snacks just in case you get stranded out in the cold.
These simple tricks may sound familiar, but all in all they could save you and your car this winter.
Winter Weather Worries: Your pets
We all know that we need to prepare our homes and cars for winter, but don't forget your pets.
Both indoor and outdoor pets will experience some changes in the winter, and owners should be prepared to help make those changes.
Winter hasn't officially started, but the mercury is falling, and our furry little friends need a warm and dry place to go.
"A dog house prepared for them that is well insulated, typically have it elevated so it is not directly on the ground, also want to have some deep bedding material whether it's hay or cedar shaving, face the house towards a wall so that there isn't a wind coming into the house."
Besides keeping your pet warm and dry, you may also have to change their eating habits, veterinarian Dr. David Tidwell says.
"We will need to increase their food because their metabolic needs will increase some. Our large animals like cows and horses are even worse about that since they are obviously out in the elements all the time."
A good rule of thumb for outdoor pets is to increase their calorie intake by 25%, but for indoor pets, experts say it's best to cut their food back. Make sure to put out warm water several times a day to keep it from freezing.
Dr. Tidwell suggests grooming your pets. That will help to keep them insulated and healthy.
"When it is icy outside and we're putting salt and deicer agents on the salt, that can be harmful to the pet’s feet. If they get it on their feet it's a good idea to wipe their feet."
Pets in Texoma are not really used to the cold weather, Tidwell adds.
"It will be warm the week before, and then we'll have an acute drop in the temperatures, and that's when the animals are really in danger because their not acclimated to the cold temperatures."
Overall pets can get through the winter just fine if their owners are willing to put forth a little extra effort.
Severe Weather Planning for Texans
Oklahoma Disaster Preparedness Toolkit
TXDOT Road Conditions website
Oklahoma DPS Road Conditions website
Watch/Warning Map for U.S.
Watch/Warning Map for Oklahoma
Watch/Warning Map for North/Central Texas
Oklahoma Current Weather Map (Mesonet)
Oklahoma Current Weather (NWS)
Texas Current Weather (NWS)
The CDC's Winter Weather Disaaster Guide