“According to the National Weather Service in Birmingham briefing at 2 p.m. Friday, there is a possibility of a brief wintry mix Sunday night/Monday morning, but when the precipitation ends — and this is the real danger — bitter cold temperatures set in and stay,” said Ellen Tanner, director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency.
Tanner said the briefing, which is subject to change, calls for rain entering the area and by about 9 p.m. Sunday the Central Alabama/Birmingham area temperature should be 29 degrees. The possible wintry mix is expected to be brief and light, with minor accumulations of snow/ice possible. A light glaze of ice is also possible.
The National Weather Service briefing said the cold temperatures are expected to be in the single digits — definitely the coldest single digit temperatures in 10 years and this system has the possibility of being the coldest in 20-25 years. Single digits and extreme cold is expected to continue through Wednesday night.
The danger: Monday — all Monday — there will be howling winds with gusts to 30 mph causing wind chill below zero. From the very early morning hours through Monday night into Tuesday, there will be single digit cold with wind chills below zero and possibly below -10 degrees.
“The Birmingham National Weather Service told emergency management personnel that this can be an extremely dangerous situation for the elderly, animals/pets and people who are outside,” Tanner said. “In fact, they went over two terms that are not even listed in the All Hazards booklet they provide each year. The two terms are Wind Chill Advisory, which is temperatures/wind chill of zero to -9 degrees and Wind Chill Warning, which is from -10 degrees or colder. Both are possible in this event.”
Tanner said it is extremely important to take this cold weather event seriously.
“Have back-up heat source or identify friends or family to move to should your heat source fail,” she said. “Have plenty of supplies, water, food, batteries, flashlights, FM radio, medicine, etc. Check on your neighbors, friends and family. Please let your pets indoors or in a shelter with bedding — blanket and/or straw or hay — not just for nighttime but for the daytime also. A person and even animals can get into trouble quickly should they be out in this cold for more than a few minutes. Be ready, be safe, stay warm.”
Tanner said the St. Clair County EMA also recommends that you have multiple resources of receiving weather alerts so that you are not totally dependent on any certain one, as equipment and software can fail.
“Please have a way to receive personal warning and do not rely on outdoor warning sirens because they are for outdoors only,” she said.
Tanner said there several weather apps for smart phones including iMap Weather Radio, NOAA Weather Radio App, Weather Alert USA, ABC 33/40, www.abc3340.com, and Fox 6, www.myfoxal.com.
She said text messages and email alerts are available including Fox 6 Text, www.myfoxal.com, and Saf-T-Net, www.saftnet2.baronservices.com/stateofalabama.
“Most are free and a couple have a small one-time cost to purchase,” she said.
Tanner said other tips include:
• Download a flashlight app on your smart phone in case power goes out.
• Make sure your “settings” allow for notifications.
• For some applications, alerts will “follow” where you travel, so be sure to “allow” for this feature in your settings.
“Even though it’s cold today, it is going to be even colder Sunday night and into Monday and Tuesday,” said Deborah Gaither, director of the Talladega County Emergency Management Agency. “People should prepare for the weather by bringing pets and plants in, checking on the elderly, make sure you have outside water faucets and pipes covered. Of course, a weather radio is always needed, whether there’s a winter weather event or severe weather.”
To stay abreast of any weather warnings in Talladega County, Gaither said anyone can sign up to receive a text message and email through Nixle, a notification service for city agencies. The Nixle sign-up is accessible on EMA’s website at www.talladegaema.org. Updates can also be found on EMA’s Facebook or Twitter accounts, Gaither said.
“If there should be a more substantial severe weather event, we would do an alert through local media and get that information out as quickly as possible by radio, TV and print media,” she said. “Stay abreast of the weather and keep up with the newest updates.”
In Sylacauga, gardener Bill Roberts spent part of his day Friday covering things up.
“Basically I’ve been covering up water pipes” in Sylacauga’s community garden, he said, explaining that most of the plants in the garden won’t be affected by the cold.
“The turnip greens might be affected, but not very badly,” he said.
Roberts is the lead gardener for SAFE and its community and school gardens.
He said he was disconnecting the water source from the garden’s irrigation system, draining as much water as possible from it, and “battening down.”
“I would recommend that people disconnect the hoses from their outdoor faucets,” Roberts said. “They’ll freeze and bust faster with a hose connected to them than otherwise.”
He also advocates using foam covers over outdoor spigots. “You can get three of them for $2, and they pay dividends – especially if your faucets are very far above the ground.”
He also recommends throwing a sheet over camellias and gardenias overnight Sunday and Monday. “You could just put a sheet over them Sunday night and leave it on there until it gets above freezing.”
People who have palm trees may want to cover them with a sheet and place an electric lamp under it.
Any plants in pots or containers should be taken into a garage or carport to keep the roots from freezing.
“I think everything else is going to be OK,” Roberts said.
The National Weather Service offers information for preparing for the Winter cold:
• Make sure your home is well insulated.
• Keep some type of emergency heating equipment available so you can keep at least one room warm enough to be livable.
• Check your supply of heating fuel, but prevent fire hazards due to coal or oil-burning stoves, fireplaces, heaters or furnaces.
• Stock an emergency supply of food/water.
• Keep water pipes from freezing by wrapping them in insulation. Also let faucets drip a little.
• Dress to fit the season. Wear loose, layered clothing.
• Move livestock to sheltered areas. For pets, bring them indoors or provide some form of heat. Provide them with fresh water as well.
The St. Clair County EMA recommends preparing an emergency supply kit or updating your emergency supply kit. Make household members aware of where supplies are stored. Use an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack, duffel bag or covered trash container.
In the emergency supply kit, consider including items such as:
• A three-day supply of water, including a gallon of water per person per day.
• Non-perishable food and a manual can opener.
• A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes for each family member.
• Blankets or sleeping bags and a first-aid kit with essential prescription medications.
• Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
• Credit cards and cash or travelers checks.
• Place important paperwork in waterproof containers. Include financial information, important phone numbers, wills, insurance policies, immunization records and passports.
O Baby items, extra glasses, contact lenses, extra set of car keys, etc.
The St. Clair County EMA can be reached at 205-884-6800. The Talladega County EMA can be reached at 256-761-2125.
Home staff writers Bill Kimber and Emily McLain contributed to this story.
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.