Officials offer advice on winter weather
BATON ROUGE – Weather forecasts for the area through the weekend include rain and then freezing temperatures.
The precipitation has the potential of freezing on the roadways to create “black ice,” a thin, nearly invisible coating of ice that forms on paved surfaces. These conditions can be dangerous for motorists who are traveling along Louisiana highways, as most are not accustomed to such driving conditions.
The Louisiana State Police urges motorists to keep abreast of the latest weather and travel conditions before deciding whether a trip is necessary, as rain and snow can cause roads to ice over quickly, particularly on bridges and overpasses, and in rural areas. If roadways accumulate ice, State Police will continue to work closely with the Department of Transportation and Development to take appropriate measures.
As conditions change, motorists are reminded to always wear their seatbelts correctly, use appropriate child restraints, and never travel faster than conditions allow. Do not drive using the cruise control in icy conditions, allow ample time to reach your destination, allow extra space between vehicles, and keep vehicle headlights on. If you should have vehicle problems, be sure to stay with your vehicle, as wind chill and freezing temperatures are life-threatening. Have a survival kit: emergency first aid kit, blankets, jumper cables, small bag of sand, high-energy or dehydrated foods, flashlight with extra batteries, extra (charged) cell phone battery, emergency flares, and bottled water.
Should you encounter icy conditions on the roadway, it is very important that you do not brake suddenly, as this may cause a loss of control. Gently apply the brakes and steer in the direction of the skid, without overcorrecting the vehicle. The most likely place you will encounter icy conditions over the next few days will be on bridges and overpasses. Use extra caution when crossing these elevated structures. Even if there is no rain and the roadways are dry, condensation build-up on elevated structures can cause their surfaces to freeze.
This would be an excellent time to check the condition of your vehicle’s tires, battery, windshield wipers and antifreeze. Low tread on tires can cause a vehicle to lose traction in all weather conditions. Weak batteries can prevent vehicles from starting in cold weather. Anti-freeze will protect your engine and radiator from freezing up due to cold temperatures. If you experience difficulties or witness hazardous situations while on the highway, notify your local State Police Troop office by dialing *LSP (*577) from your cell phone. For road closure information, motorists can dial 511 or visit www.511LA.org.
Louisiana State Fire Marshall Butch Browning also offers some advice for those combating the frigid temperatures,” having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.” Here are some quick tips to help prevent a fire:
Check for cracks and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions. Be sure to keep combustible objects at least three feet away from your wood stove.
Electric Space Heaters
Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater. Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.
Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Never fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel; both flare-up easily. Never overfill any portable heater. Use the kerosene heater in a well-ventilated room.
They must be cleaned frequently and chimneys should be inspected for obstructions and cracks to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires. Check to make sure the damper is open before starting any fire. Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. Use a screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.