After teasing us with unseasonably warm temperatures the first few weeks of the season, Old Man Winter seems ready to unleash his fury upon us this evening, with a potentially historic blizzard consisting of as much as 2 feet of snow and winds of more than 50 miles per hour.
Make no mistake, this is the real deal. Gov. Larry Hogan's declaration of a state of emergency means that, if you can, you should hunker down and bundle up inside with some movies and hot chocolate for the next few days.
"This has been talked about for a week," said David Buck, a State Highway Administration spokesman. "Once it starts, it's supposed to intensify very quickly. Plan from 3 p.m. [today] on, where you are is where you'll likely stay for three days."
If you haven't made preparations, you should still have time Friday morning before the storm begins. But try to be off the roads before the snow starts falling, if your work allows. The height of the storm is expected to be shortly after it starts, meaning the afternoon commute could be quite gnarly and driving conditions downright treacherous. Strong winds and blowing snow will mean limited visibility, and snow will likely pile up quickly before road crews can get to it all.
Because this will be a heavy, wet snow and there will be strong wind gusts, there is a good chance people could lose power, possibly for several hours or even days. If you do lose power, don't assume someone else will contact the utility company — call them yourself to report the outage.
Make sure to keep cellphones and other devices charged in case electricity goes out, especially if you don't have an active landline. You'll want a way to follow weather updates and keep in touch with family and friends in case of emergencies. If you don't have a car charger for your phone, invest in one, because the car battery can serve as a source of power if needed.
And if you need a light source because of an outage, use flashlights rather than candles, which pose a fire hazard. Local and state emergency officials say the risk of fire tends to increase during heavy snowfalls, particularly because of candles, space heaters and fireplaces.
If your chimney hasn't been cleaned out recently, it could be dangerous to use a fireplace. Chimney fires can quickly turn into house fires.
It's also a good idea to try to keep driveways clear during storms, in case you do have a fire or health emergency and first responders needs to come to your home. Be sure to keep nearby fire hydrants clear, too.
Finally, be cognizant of neighbors, friends, and relatives who might have health issues or who are elderly and might have trouble keeping warm or shoveling out themselves.
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Remember, this is a potentially historic storm. If you don't have to go out, don't. Stay warm and be safe.