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What to expect, how to prepare for this winter


With about two weeks left until winter officially begins, it’s a critical time to prepare for the frosty days ahead. Here’s what to expect, along with some tips from the Cumberland County Emergency Services on how to survive the fast-approaching freezing weeks.

What to expect this winter

According to forecasts from the North Carolina State Climate Office (NCSCO) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the temperatures will be slightly warmer than average this winter. At the same time, the agencies predict an above-average chance of precipitation, with the NCSCO stating a high probability of one major snowfall affecting most areas of the state. 

Garry Crumpler, an emergency management coordinator for Cumberland County, cautions there’s no telling whether snowfall will affect Cumberland County — but to be prepared regardless. 

“So that measurable snow outlook could be in the mountains, it could be in central North Carolina, it could be at the coast,” Crumpler said. “We don't know where it's going to fall.” 

Crumpler said the most likely time for a snowfall, if it happens in Cumberland, would be in January and/or February.

The climate forecasts are based on data from previous years in consideration of factors like La Niña and El Niño patterns in the Pacific Ocean and the strength of jet streams. For the first time in four years, an El Niño is underway heading into the winter. Historically, this has translated into warmer and wetter weather in the Southeast, according to the NOAA.

Overall, eastern North Carolina — including Fayetteville — tends to have less snow than the central and western parts of the state because of the influence of the Gulf Stream, an Atlantic ocean current that brings warm water up the eastern coastline, according to the National Weather Service. 

Still, Crumpler is hesitant to place too much credence on the seasonal weather predictions. 

“With my job, I try not to give out any weather forecast really more than five days out because we can be forecasted to be at 32 degrees, and then you wake up two days later, then we're supposed to be in the 60s,” he said. 

Instead, Crumpler said to focus on preparation, regardless of the outcome.

How to prepare for the winter

Cumberland County Emergency Services recommends these tips to prepare for winter:

  • Make an emergency supplies kit, complete with at least seven days’ supply of everything you might need: water, food, non-perishable items, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, baby formula, medications, cash, etc.
  • Purchase a portable emergency weather radio to get updates on severe weather from NOAA, in case of an emergency that could cause internet and power outages. Bonus points for ones with a built-in rechargeable solar battery. 
  • Prepare your home for winter, including any additional insulation measures necessary to get through the colder days. 
  • Beware of the dangers of driving in freezing weather conditions, such as black ice.
  • Be informed of emergency shelters in the county. You can visit Cumberland County’s interactive shelter map to find out the status of emergency shelters. 
  • For people experiencing homelessness, look out for county notifications of “white flag” nights for emergency overnight shelter during below-freezing temperatures. 
  • Beware of the risk of home-heating fires. According to the county’s emergency services department, one in every seven home fires involves heating equipment. To minimize risk:
    • Plug in only one heat-producing appliance, like a space heater, into an electrical outlet at a time.
    • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from any heat source like fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators or space heaters.
  • Purchase a portable generator if able, but make sure to operate it outside, away from windows and as far away from your house as possible.
  • Install and test a carbon monoxide alarm, since the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is highest in the winter, when more people start to utilize their fuel-burning devices.
  • Regularly check readync.gov. The state website provides updates on the latest state weather hazards and conditions, including any possible evacuation orders, power outages and dangerous road conditions.
  • To learn more about emergency preparedness, check out the county’s emergency service website.

Contact Evey Weisblat at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608.

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winter, snow, emergency preparedness, emergency