Township offers tips to combat winter hazards

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 1, 2015

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The winter flurries have already arrived and local officials are doing their best to educate the public on the perils of the season.

The National Weather Service has predicted a slightly warmer winter when compared to last year, with the same amount or less snowfall. However, more wet snow is expected.

Paul Brouwer, emergency manager for Clinton Township, said it’s the little things — such as always possessing a cellphone in case of an emergency and keeping a blanket in one’s vehicle — that keep people safe in the most treacherous conditions.

“Obviously, what we try to press upon people is to always be ready,” Brouwer said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a 10-minute drive to the store. You could run off the road and get stuck somewhere.”

The township’s winter hazard warning comes on the heels of Michigan Winter Hazards Awareness Week, which took place from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7 and cautioned Michigan residents to be extra vigilant during a notoriously dangerous time of year.

The week is a proclamation issued by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Included in the focus on winter hazards are ways to alleviate the weather impact, both on individuals and their possessions.

For example, Brouwer discussed the importance of making sure heat is prevalent inside a living space — as well as being prepared if power suddenly goes out and there is limited warmth. A solution in such a scenario would be to have a generator — located outside a home, due to possible carbon monoxide emission — and to have proper wiring ready in case of an emergency.

Also, frozen pipes and roof ice dams affect some people every year.

A quarter of a million homes are damaged by pipe bursts each winter, according to the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness. To put it into context, an 8-inch pipe crack can result in the loss of 250 gallons of water per day.

Along with using heat tape or opening a valve to let water drain, Brouwer said, “You can do something as simple as putting a light bulb in a confined space.”

Roof dams are a little more complicated, especially if a homeowner doesn’t prepare ahead of time.

They exist when uninsulated areas of attic space heat and melt snow on the roof above, simultaneously blocking additional water from exiting and creating an ice dam. Then, the water buildup can potentially go through the heated areas and damage the interior of an attic, including ceilings, walls and any belongings located inside.

Keeping gutters free of sticks, leaves and other debris ahead of time and keeping snow buildup on the roof to a minimum can help prevent ice dams from forming.

“If you have it, it’s too late,” he said. “There’s nothing an individual can really do.”

Brouwer said the biggest threat in this part of the country is the weather: storms in the summertime, and snowfall and ice in the winter.

Road maintenance is often a major point of notice in terms of safety and simply reaching destinations, but Clinton Township roads are maintained by the Macomb County Department of Roads. Brouwer said the county focuses on the main roads first and usually clears them pretty quickly, while subdivisions are secondary.

The main message is for residents to stay cognizant of everything, and that’s done by staying up-to-date on weather patterns.

Brouwer suggested weather alert radios that sound off alerts when an advisory or emergency occurs. Smartphones also play an important role, as users can sign up to receive instant notifications by using various apps.

An outdoor warning siren system may sound off, as well, to aid those who have no TV or phone access. However, Brouwer mentioned a scenario in years past about a siren going off in Romeo — due to Macomb County dispatching police and fire — and Clinton Township residents started calling 911 because they thought they were in danger. Don’t clog up phone lines unless you’re in present danger, Brouwer said.

“Be prepared. Don’t let a 10-minute drift (result) where you end up getting frostbite,” he said. “Running from school to the car, from the house to the car — if something happens and you get stuck you need decent clothing. Hypothermia can happen real fast. If you get in a (car) accident, you’re not going to have anything to eat. People go into shock when stuck and it doesn’t bode well for the system.

“Winter — it’s cold. Stay warm.”

For more information on how to stay safe and prepared, visit www.mcswa.com.

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