Harrisonburg officials offer tips ahead of Wednesday’s weather

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 3:19 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The Harrisonburg Fire Department and the Harrisonburg Public Works Office are urging community members to prepare in advance for Wednesday’s predicted snowstorm.

While the two organizations are advising residents to stay at home if possible, many will still have to venture out for work or appointments. If you do have to go out, the Harrisonburg Public Works Office advises you to avoid parking on the street so plow crews can get to work.

“Road conditions will likely deteriorate quickly,” a press release from Harrisonburg Public Works says, “and staying home is the best way to ensure emergency responders do not have to respond to additional incidents.”

Drivers who are out also should not attempt to pass snowplows and stay at least 100 feet behind them. Snowplows will focus on primary streets first, the release says, and plowing of residential streets will begin once the storm ends.

When driving behind other vehicles, keep a safe distance of at least five seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you; and be aware of areas that will ice quicker than others, such as shaded areas and bridges.

The Friendly City also has guidelines concerning its sidewalks. You must clear the sidewalk in front of your home or business within 24 hours if the snowfall is six inches or less.

If the snowfall is greater than six inches, residents have 36 hours to clear it.

For more information on the guidelines for clearing sidewalks in Harrisonburg, click here.

“When there is a winter storm event, our sanitation trucks become snowplows, and sanitation crews become snowplow drivers, to help clear Harrisonburg streets as quickly as possible,” Director of Public Works Tom Hartman said in the release. “In order to help us respond to this event, please avoid parking on streets, avoid travel when crews are clearing roadways, do not attempt to pass snowplows, and stay at least 100 feet behind if following a plow. And remember, when shoveling snow it is best to wait until your street has been plowed.”

When it comes to preparing for the storm in your own home, the Harrisonburg Fire Department says you should keep in mind the potential loss of power, heat, telephone services and a shortage of supplies in case the storm lasts for an extended period.

HFD says it’s a good idea to make sure you have certain items available in your home or at work when preparing for a winter storm, such as a battery-powered weather radio, first aid supplies, a flashlight with extra batteries, extra water and nonperishable foods, extra medicine and supplies to care for infants and the elderly, an emergency heating source and a fire extinguisher and working smoke alarms.

After the storm, the fire department says you should clear sidewalks and driveways promptly to prevent slips and falls, and check on your neighbors in case they need assistance. If you do check on members outside of your household, be sure to wear a mask and use proper social distancing techniques.

It’s also a good idea to clear fire hydrants around your property three feet in all directions to help firefighters use them in an emergency, the press release says.

HPD says generators can also be a useful tool, but they can also be extremely hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide poisoning from toxic engine exhaust, electric shock, fire and burns, according to the release.

The fire department also says you should never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds or similar areas due to how quickly levels of carbon dioxide can build up in these areas.

When refueling a generator, HFD says to turn the machine off and let it cool down before doing so. Never store fuel for your generator in your home or near a fuel-burning appliance. It’s always a good idea to carefully review your generator’s instructions.

Most importantly, if you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, HFD says get to fresh air right away.

The fire department’s release also gives tips on how to dress when it comes to a winter storm:

  • Wear loose, lightweight, warm clothes in layers. Trapped air insulates.
  • Remove layers to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
  • Wear a hat. Half of your body heat loss can be from your head.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.

In preparation for the storm, Harrisonburg Public Works says residents will not receive bulk item and yard debris collection on Wednesday. The Recycling Convenience Center and Mobile Recycling Unit will also be closed on Wednesday.

Downtown customers should hold their trash for collection on Thursday, Dec. 17. Residents and businesses are also welcome to bring their bulk items and yard debris to the Recycling Convenience Center ahead of the storm, or once it reopens after the storm.

For more information on Wednesday’s storm, click here.

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