Stafford has had a nice fall, but December brings the first day of winter and probably some harsher weather. It is important to prepare ahead so you are ready before the snow, sleet and ice arrive.
Know your winter weather terms
When checking the weather forecast, be sure to know the difference between an Advisory, Watch, and Warning.
- Winter Weather Advisory - Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet, which will cause significant inconveniences and could lead to life-threatening situations if caution is not exercised.
- Winter Storm Watch - Alerts the public that conditions exist for the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet.
- Winter Storm Warning - Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring.
Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Listen for emergency information and alerts. If you haven’t yet, sign up to receive severe weather alerts. Sign up for Stafford Alert for severe weather alerts and use the National Weather Service website for the latest forecast updates.
You can find information on County closures at www.staffordcountyva.gov/closings and on all the locations below on the opening status for County Government, parks facilities, courts and the Regional Landfill. If a receiving center or shelter is opened, information may be found through the resources below.
- Stafford Alert at staffordalert.com - Sign up and receive phone calls, texts or emails
- Stafford’s website - staffordcountyva.gov , AskBlu chatbot on website and AskBlu App
- Parks website - staffordparks.com
- R-Board website – rboard.org
- Courts – staffordcountyva.gov/courts
- Facebook - @StaffordCountyGovernment, Twitter - @StaffordVAGov
- TV stations, radio stations and their websites
- Stafford Information -(540) 658-8600
- Sheriff’s Office Non-Emergency Number – (540) 658-4400
Additionally, some questions come up during a winter storm that others can best answer. Downed trees? Call VDOT at 1 (800)367-ROAD (1 (800) 367-7623). Downed power lines? Call Dominion Energy at 1-866-DOM-HELP or NOVEC at 1(888)335-0500.
Stay Safe During Winter Storms
When those snowflakes start falling, STAY OFF ROADS IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. The safest (and warmest) place to be is at home. If trapped in your car, stay inside. Be sure to limit your time outside. If you need to go out, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. When you go out to shovel your driveways and sidewalks, be sure to pace yourself! Overexertion can lead to heart attacks, so listen to your body and take frequent breaks.
If you must go out, check current road conditions and closures by visiting the VDOT 511 website. Ensure you have an emergency kit for your car if you get stuck. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes and boots, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks, and keep a full gas tank.
Prepare Your Home for Winter Weather
You can do a few things around your home to help prevent damage or discomfort during severe winter weather.
- Keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping (also lowers your heat bill!)
- Trim dead trees and limbs that could fall on or near structures
- Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
- Insulate your pipes and outside faucets (hose spigots) in unheated areas in order to prevent pipes from freezing. If you have pipes in an unheated garage or crawl space, wrap the water pipes with insulation.
- Make an Emergency Kit by gathering supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.
If you cannot afford your heating costs, weatherization or energy-related home repairs, contact the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for help.
Stay Safe Heating Your Home - Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When the power goes out and you’re trying to stay warm, there are a few things to avoid to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Never use a generator indoors or within 20 feet of your house.
- Have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every floor.
- If you use your car to stay warm or charge devices, make sure it’s outside the garage.
- Never use an oven to produce heat for your home.
Electrically-powered medical equipment
Those dependent on electrically powered medical equipment can register with their power company to get on their medical conditions list for priority restoration. Forms require a physician’s statement and signature and must be completed annually to stay on the list.
For more great tips on Winter Weather preparedness, please visit www.ready.gov.