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Otago people urged to be prepared for snowstorm

MEDIA RELEASE

June 18, 2013

Otago people urged to be prepared for snowstorm

Otago people are being urged to take emergency precautions and be prepared for a snowstorm which is forecast to hit the region as part of a significant cold outbreak MetService has predicted to hit much of the country.

Temperatures are expected to become very cold over southern and eastern parts of the South Island, including Dunedin from tomorrow night to Thursday morning, with snow falling to near sea level. MetService is describing this as a significant winter storm.

Exposed parts of the South Island east coast are likely to experience blizzard conditions for a time during Thursday and Friday.

Otago Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group public information manager Peter Taylor said people should keep in mind snowfalls are likely to cause widespread disruption to road conditions, especially about alpine passes and higher level roads, and also in Dunedin, cut power to homes and disrupt flight services.

The snow and rain in this storm is also expected to keep the Taieri, Lower Clutha, and Pomahaka River levels high. ORC flood managers would be closely monitoring these, Mr Taylor said.

People should keep up to-date with the latest forecasts and warnings, stay off the roads when they are dangerous, and drive only if it is absolutely necessary, he said.

If people had to travel, they should be well prepared, and have snow chains, sleeping bags, warm clothing and essential emergency items at the ready.

Drivers caught in a snowstorm should stay in the vehicle and not venture outside; run their engine every 10 minutes to keep warm; drink fluids to avoid dehydration, and open the window a little to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

They should have high-visibility clothing and torches in their vehicle.

Mr Taylor said that in a snowstorm, the primary concerns for emergency services are the potential loss of transportation, heat, power and telephone services, and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day.

Everyone should have the necessities in place to be able to be self-sufficient for three days or more in the event of road closures and power cuts.

This includes having stocks of food, water, warm clothing, fuel, alternative lighting, and other emergency supplies on hand, Mr Taylor said

For general readiness, every household should create and practise a Household Emergency Plan, and assemble and maintain emergency survival items,” he said.

Other important things people should do at home to secure themselves during snowstorms included:

• Ensuring they had fuel supplies for woodburners, gas heaters, and generators.

• Securing, or moving indoors, all items that could get blown about and cause harm in strong winds.

• Water supplies can be affected so it is a good idea to store drinking water in containers and tubs.

• If the snow and wind becomes destructive, close all windows and external and internal doors. Pull curtains and drapes over unprotected glass areas to prevent injury from shattered or flying glass. Stay away from doors and windows by sheltering further inside the house.

• Power cuts are possible in severe weather. Unplug small appliances which may be affected by electrical power surges. If power is lost unplug major appliances to reduce the power surge and possible damage when power is restored.

• Members of the public should contact their local council for further Civil Defence information.

Specific emergency preparedness items

• Torch with spare batteries or a self-charging torch

• Radio with spare batteries

• First aid kit and essential medicines

• Blankets or sleeping bags

• Pet supplies

• Wind and waterproof clothing and strong outdoor shoes

Food and water for at least three days

• Non-perishable food (canned or dried food)

• Food, formula, and drinks for babies and small children

• Water for drinking. At least 3 litres per person, per day

• A camp-cooker or gas barbeque to cook on

• A spare, full gas cylinder

• A can opener

• Water for washing and cooking

Suggested winter emergency items for your car

• Windshield scraper and brush

• Battery or self-charging torch

• Battery or self-charging radio

• Extra batteries

• Water

• Snack food

• First aid kit

• Jumper cables

• Hi-vis vest

• Tow chain or rope

• Cigarette lighter cell phone charger

• Wind and waterproof clothing and strong outdoor shoes

• Personal medications

• Blanket(s)

• A shovel

Up-to-date river level and rainfall information is available on the ORC water info webpage www.orc.govt.nz/waterinfo or by phoning 0800 426 463.


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