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Residents advised to take precautions in winter weather
Maintain vehicle, heat homes safely and inspect fireplaces
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Anthony Rider, a line technician at Milton Martin Honda in Gainesville, performs an oil change Monday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Braving winter weather

Prepare your home

  • Have your furnace and wall heaters checked by a professional for safety.
  • Check all space heaters and keep them away from walls, curtains and furniture.
  • If you have a gas heater or any gas appliances, invest in a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Replace the batteries in all of your smoke detectors and test the smoke alarms to make sure they work.
  • Check the batteries in your NOAA Weather Radio.
    When using heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater or other apparatus, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.
  • Close off unused rooms.
  • Cover windows at night.
  • Cover exposed plumbing fixtures and pipes or leave dripping when temperatures drop below freezing.
  • Prepare a survival kit with supplies needed to survive for a minimum of three days, including bottled water, nonperishable foods for family and pets, sleeping bags or bedding, extra clothes, medicine, flashlights, a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit and a manual can opener. For a complete list of items, visit www.ready.ga.gov.

Prepare your vehicle

  • Give your vehicle a maintenance check for tires, brakes, battery, heating and defrosting system and windshield wipers. Keep your washer fluid full of a nonfreezing solution.
  • Change the antifreeze, if needed, to protect the engine and radiator from freezing in cold temperatures.
  • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Pack and carry a winter storm survival kit including blankets or sleeping bags; additional warm clothing; a flashlight with extra batteries; first aid kit; knife; high-calorie, nonperishable food such as candy bars; small can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking; bag of sand or cat litter; shovel; windshield scraper and brush; booster cables.

Watch out for your pets

  • Make sure pets have plenty of food, water and shelter.
  • Move animals to sheltered areas when possible.
  • Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas.
  • Have water available; many animals can die from dehydration in winter storms.

Sources: NOAA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency

Northeast Georgia will get its first real winter chill of the season this week.

Temperatures are expected to drop into the lower 20s this morning and continue to drop below freezing over the next few nights, according to meteorologists with the National Weather Service.

Today's temperatures in Gainesville aren't expected to get out of the mid-30s.

Alex Gibbs, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the "cold, dry air mass" moving into the region is a typical winter system. It just happens to be the first of this season.

Temperatures should move up into seasonal averages by Thursday, Gibbs said, with highs reaching the 50s.

Until then, residents should take some precautions, including making sure vehicles are ready for freezing temperatures and homes are being heated safely.

Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said residents need to be careful to avoid the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Kimbrell said portable space heaters can be particularly dangerous if they are near something flammable.

"We recommend 3 feet in any direction from anything that can burn, whether that's furniture, clothing or curtains," he said.

Children should not be left alone in the room with a space heater, either, he said.

Residents using wood-burning fireplaces should have chimneys inspected for blockages, said Kimbrell, who recommends hiring professional chimney sweeps for the task.

Kimbrell said Hall County Fire Services responded to several emergency calls involving wood-burning chimneys in December, though not as many as usual.

"The weather has been mild," he said. "It's actually been a little slow."

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a danger especially when residents resort to unapproved heating devices. Kimbrell said some people use grills to stay warm, which can be dangerous.

Carbon monoxide detectors can give a warning of potentially dangerous levels.

Drivers should also take caution with freezing temperatures to avoid damaging their cars.

Curt Sloyer, service director at Milton Martin Honda in Gainesville, said the freeze is a good reminder to check a car's fluids.

"Certainly this time of year, the antifreeze is important," he said.

Sloyer also recommends using anti-freezing windshield washer fluid. He said some drivers fill their washer tanks with water, which turns to ice in these temperatures.

It's also a good idea for drivers who park outside to let their cars heat up a little in the morning to thin out engine oil before driving.

"Most people will crank their cars up and let it run anyway because it's so cold," Sloyer said.

 

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