Local officials issue winter weather warnings

Published 7:30 pm Monday, February 16, 2015

UPDATE: Beaufort County emergency management is urging all county residents to shelter in place and limit all unnecessary driving between the hours of 8 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Tuesday.

With Beaufort County falling under a National Weather Service winter storm watch, followed by overnight lows in the low teens and 20s from Tuesday to Friday, county and state officials are warning residents to be careful, both indoors and outdoors.

“My main suggestion is don’t drive,” said Trooper Stephen Bryant with N.C. State Highway Patrol. “But if you have to, my advice is to slow down, don’t use your brake and steer in the direction of the skid. Allow distance between cars.”

Bryant specifically addressed driving on what likely could be icy roads throughout the county this week. NCDOT prioritized de-icing measures for main roads — the U.S. Highway 17 bridge is a known hazard in the subzero, wet weather — and drivers should use extreme caution if out and about, especially less-traveled roads where tree shade prevents sunlight from melting off ice during the day. Bryant said the most common mistake drivers make when driving in winter weather has to do with speed.

“(Drivers) think they can still go the speed limit,” Bryant said. “Just because the speed limit is 55, doesn’t mean you need to go 55 on an icy road.”

According to Beaufort County Emergency Management Coordinator John Pack, in addition to the ice predicted to coat the county overnight Monday, there’s a possibility of wind chill dropping local temps into the single digits this week, so those who are outside need to stay aware of the cold.

“Hypothermia is as sneaky as carbon monoxide,” Pack said. “It will sneak up on you so quick, you won’t realized you’re so cold until you fall over.”

In case of power outages, alternate heat and lighting sources are necessary, but can pose their own hazards. Kerosene heaters, though proclaimed safe to run inside, need to have some ventilation to prevent fumes from building up — preferably a cracked window; generators should be set up outside, unless in a very well-ventilated garage — a generator running in a closed environment builds up carbon monoxide that can seep through an opened door, Pack explained.

“Candles are a huge danger around kids. Candles and children do not mix,” Pack said. “I can’t say how many fires have been started by kids accidentally knocking a candle over into a curtain.”

Should there be widespread power outages in the county, Pack said Emergency Management would likely open shelters, but residents should be on the lookout for downed power lines.

“Don’t assume they’re dead,” Pack warned.

And for those driving out into the winter weather: be prepared. Travel with a charged cell phone and a flashlight, make sure the vehicle  has plenty of gas and take a blanket along, Bryant said.