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WNC bundles up as Arctic weather settles in for the holiday weekend.

NOAA's weather graphic shows frigid temperatures settling into WNC
NOAA
NOAA's weather graphic shows frigid temperatures settling into WNC

Spigot covers, hand warmers and bags of ice melt were added to holiday shopping lists across Western North Carolina as the Arctic blast settled into the region and temperatures plunged and gusty winds whipped. A steady stream of customers came through the Ace Hardware on Fairview Road in Asheville. Barry Dean and his five-year-old son waited patiently for a propane tank refill. “We’ve heard the wind warnings and I’m worried about losing power,” said Dean. “We have a small propane heater, probably won’t help much, but we’re looking at single digits tonight and with the wind chill factored in, who knows how cold it will feel, so it’s better than nothing.” Find the latest forecast and advisories from the National Weather service here.

The sun was still bright when the power outage reports started coming in. By Friday afternoon, The Duke Energy outage map was spotted with mostly small clusters, scattered from Rutherfordton to Murphy. Roads were clear in most places and Duke Energy and other power company crews were able to respond quickly. Find the Duke Energy outage map here.

The NC Department of Transportation is encouraging people to stay home if possible – and urges holiday travelers to check road conditions before taking off. A press release from the NCDOT notes that crews have been treating roads in higher elevations and will remain on stand-by. For real-time travel information, visit DriveNC.gov.

The flight schedule at the Asheville Regional Airport reflected impact of weather-related delays and cancellations across the country. Airport spokesperson Tina Kinsey told BPR they are recommending that passengers stay in close contact with their airlines’ websites or apps. “There will be effects. Flights to and from Chicago and New York have been cancelled, and these could be due to weather,” said Kinsey. “Large storms like this one can have far-reaching effects on the aviation system, so all passengers should check the status of their flights often.”

Along with issuing alerts and statements urging residents to stay indoors, local governments and non-profit organizations kicked into action, expanding access to services and shelters for people experiencing homelessness. An expanded Code Purple alert remains in effect through the weekend for Asheville and Buncombe County. The alert enables organizations supports a coordinated city-county effort to provide emergency overflow shelter to people experiencing homelessness when the temperature hits freezing or below. First responders are working alongside service providers to connect and transport people to shelters. A number of organizations will be on stand-by during the holiday weekend, including the American Red Cross.

The organization posted this list of cold weather tips, covering everything from frostbite to fire hazards:

The American Red Crosshas steps you should take to stay safe during this dangerous cold weather:

WINTER WEATHER SAFETY:

Winter weather can bring life-threatening conditions. Stay indoors and wear layers of loose fitting, lightweight warm clothes.

  • Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or live alone.
  • Protect pipes from freezing
  • Bring your pets inside during cold winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water. If the animals are outside, make sure their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.

HOME FIRES AND SPACE HEATERS

Protect your home from accidental fires

  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage. Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. Connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

WINTER DRIVING

The Red Cross encourages everyone to stay off the road if possible. If you must drive in snow or freezing rain, follow these tips:

  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help with visibility.
  • Share the details of your route, departure time, and estimated arrival time with someone.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on wet roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Avoid distractions such as your cell phone.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
  • Don’t use electrical components (like your headlights) unless the engine is running.

POWER OUTAGE SAFETY

Use flashlights in the day — avoid using candles.

  • Don’t drive unless necessary. Traffic lights will be out, and roads could be congested.
  • Turn off and unplug any appliances, equipment and electronics. When the power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment. Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.
  • If you are using a generator, keep it dry and don’t use it in wet conditions.

WATCH FOR SIGNS OF HYPOTHERMIA AND FROSTBITE

  • Get out of the cold immediately if signs of hypothermia or frostbite appear. These signs include shaking uncontrollably, getting extremely tired, turning very pale or getting numb fingers, toes, ears or nose.
  • To treat someone who may have hypothermia or frostbite, gently warm them by wrapping them in a blanket and giving them warm drinks and high-energy foods. Call 911 if these signs are severe.

WATCH FOR SIGNS OF HYPOTHERMIA AND FROSTBITE

  • Get out of the cold immediately if signs of hypothermia or frostbite appear. These signs include shaking uncontrollably, getting extremely tired, turning very pale or getting numb fingers, toes, ears or nose.
  • To treat someone who may have hypothermia or frostbite, gently warm them by wrapping them in a blanket and giving them warm drinks and high-energy foods. Call 911 if these signs are severe.
Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.