By Alex Kowalski
PBN Staff Writer
CRANSTON – The R.I. Emergency Management Agency released a public advisory Thursday urging residents and businesses to make immediate preparations for tomorrow’s “historic” winter storm, which is expected to cause snowfall of at least 12 inches.
The storm has been dubbed “Nemo”the Weather Channel and meteorologists are predicting heavy snow, coastal wind gusts over hurricane force, coastal flooding and white-out conditions.
With blizzard conditions are expected to start early Friday morning, Providence Economic Development Chief James S. Bennett and Head of Emergency Management Agency Peter Gaynor jointly urged business owners and residents throughout Providence not to delay.
RIEMA is also encouraging businesses to implement flexible work schedules and to prepare for workers to leave as early as noon on Friday, as any later places employees at risk of being stranded on the motorways or exposed to downed power lines.
A blizzard watch will go into effect Friday afternoon, after which residents will be advised to remain indoors through the weekend, RIEMA said. Residents were warned to prepare themselves for up to a foot-and-a-half of accumulated snow accompanied by wind gusts of up to 60 mph.
AccuWeather.com reported that intense snowfall will create dangerous traveling conditions, and vehicle stranding is likely to occur.
The mingling of these storm forces will likely cause power outages across the state, RIEMA Executive Director Theresa C. Murray said in prepared remarks. Updating and refilling emergency kits with winter survival gear is critical during outages, and the elderly who rely on continuous medical power for life support are at an increased risk.
The National Weather Service briefed RIEMA as early as Monday on the probable threat of the snow storm, Annemarie Beardsworth, RIEMA public information officer, told Providence Business News. In a phone conference with agency officials, the Weather Service said to expect “at least a foot of snow” with 75 percent certainty and up to two-to-three inches of snowfall per hour.
Falling trees racked by wind and snow can take down power lines, while flying debris can create window-busting projectiles, RIEMA suggested that residents secure loose outdoor fixtures like patio furniture.
For street safety, R.I. Transportation Department Spokesman Charles St. Martin told the Providence Business News that equipment, such as chainsaws, have been prepared for clearing fall trees. He said that they plan to use a “team approach” to address outages and damage that was carried over from Hurricane Sandy operations.
“We are coordinating with local public works departments and National Grid [to clear areas]. It worked very well during Sandy, and it’s in place should it be needed,” St. Martin said.
In most scenarios the best bet is to stay home, he said, especially if drivers want to avoid getting stuck. However, should stranded vehicles become a problem, he added that the department has also set up a “heavy tow plan” with various wrecking and vehicle towing companies to aid in clearing motorways.
RIEMA suggests that residents have at least a week’s worth of home-heating fuel and at least one room with a consistent heat source, ensure all carbon monoxide detectors are working and prepare snow removal devices, salt and sand. Cars should also be well-equipped with viable winter tires, back-up blankets, ice scrapers, shovels, windshield wiper fluid, and a bag of sand.