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Mid-South crews are getting ready for more winter weather: here's how you can prepare

Officials said road crews from TDOT, city of Memphis, and Shelby County are prepared to send out salt and sand trucks to treat the roads.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County officials said Wednesday crews are gearing up for the possibility of winter weather Thursday.

The National Weather Service said winter precipitation could cause slick and icy roads and bridges. (Find the latest forecast from the ABC 24 Weather Team HERE.)

Officials said road crews from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, city of Memphis, and Shelby County are prepared to send out salt and sand trucks to treat the roads before the precipitation begins.

"The Emergency Operations Center will be staffed to remain in contact with our local emergency services partners and public works coordinators throughout Shelby County,” added Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Director Brenda Jones.

“We have a vehicle set up to put down brine so we started today to go through our routes and treat our priority routes and locations, which is our bridges & overpasses,” said Robert Knecht, City of Memphis Public Work Director.

Knecht said brine is a huge benefit because it helps stop sleet or snow from sticking – and that's a big deal because once it sticks it's very hard to remove.

“We prepare for winter weather months in advance,” TDOT Commissioner Joe Galbato said. “Our salt bins and our brine are fully stocked, and our employees are ready to mobilize in the event of inclement weather. Clearing our roadways as soon as we can is vital to keeping motorists safe and traffic moving in Tennessee.” 

Below is a list of things Shelby County EMA officials said are good to keep in mind when the winter weather hits the Mid-South and Memphis area.

Preparing for Winter Weather 

With winter approaching, be sure to look through your emergency kit and add supplies, such as:

  • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. (Remember that these products can be harmful to dogs, so be sure to choose a non-toxic brand if you or your neighbors have pets.)
  • Sand/gravel to improve traction.
  • Snow shovels or other snow removal equipment.
  • Heating fuel. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, keep a supply of good, dry wood for heating in case you lose power.
  • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep warm, including coats, sweaters, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, etc.
  • Keep your NOAA Weather Radio in your kit to receive broadcast alerts and warnings directly from the NWS for all hazards. You may also sign up in advance to receive notifications from your local emergency services.
  • Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together, and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Be prepared to bring your pets/animals inside in the event of a winter storm. Move animals and livestock to a sheltered area with non-frozen drinking water.

Plan Your Travel During Winter Weather Carefully 

During a winter storm, minimize your travel by car. Even if winter weather conditions aren’t present, conditions like black ice can cause vehicles to lose control.

If you plan on traveling by vehicle during the winter, make sure to winterize your vehicle. Check (or have a mechanic check) the following items in your car:

  • Ensure that antifreeze levels are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Ensure your battery and ignition are in top condition and battery terminals are clean.
  • Check for wear and fluid levels of breaks.
  • Check for leaks and crimped pipes in your exhaust system, and repair/replace them as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually, there is no warning of its presence.
  • Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Ensure your heater and defroster are working properly.
  • Check your lights and hazard lights to ensure they’re working properly.
  • Check your oil level and weight. Heavier oils can congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Repair any problems with your windshield wipers and maintain proper washer fluid levels.

Keep a winter weather supply kit in your vehicle, including:

  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper and small broom
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Water
  • Food
  • Matches
  • Extra clothing and blankets to keep warm, such as coats, hats, socks, mittens, etc.
  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Jumper cables
  • Road salt and sand
  • Emergency flares
  • Florescent distress flag

Be Informed 

Know the below terms and what actions to take. Be alert to weather reports and tune in for specific guidance when these conditions develop.

  • Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Wind Chill: Windchill is the temperature it “feels like” when you are outside. The NWS provides a wind chill calculator to show the difference between air temperature and the perceived temperature and the amount of time until frostbite occurs.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: The NWS issues a winter weather advisory when conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is used, these situations should not be life-threatening.
  • Winter Storm Watch: A winter storm is possible in your area. The NWS issues a winter storm watch when severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area but the location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued 12 to 36 hours in advance of a potential severe storm. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio, TV, or other news sources for more information.
  • Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning: Below freezing temperatures are expected.

Monitor alerts, check your emergency supplies and gather any items you may need if you lose power.