storm

Winter Storm Diego swept through the region in 2018, leaving many residents without power. Paul Nielsen/CMG photo

CHARLOTTE – Emergency management officials are urging residents to be prepared and stay off the roads during the ice storm that will reach the Charlotte region this weekend.

Robert Graham, deputy director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management, encourages families to have at least 72 hours worth of supplies for family and pets, but don't panic buy. Graham also said roads should be for essential personnel.

“When you're on the roads and folks have accidents that are not part of the essential services, it really creates problems for our ability to get things done within the city and county,” Graham said.

Charles Jones, deputy street superintendent of Charlotte Department of Transportation, also emphasized the importance of staying off the roads to give crews room to work.

Jones said street maintenance crews have been applying salt brine and they will begin plowing and salting on Saturday evening. N.C. Department of Transportation crews will follow suit with state roads.

“Our goal is to have streets passable within 48 hours of the end of the storm but with the weather conditions we are seeing, we think that may occur sooner,” Jones said.

Road conditions may prove challenging for emergency personnel.

Deputy Chief Stephen Brochu, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said response time may increase due to being cautious around roadways.

Brochu explained 911 should be used for emergencies only. Outages, downed trees and storm-related incidents are being monitored by city and county services.

Brochu encouraged people that have to drive to slow down and increase their following and stopping distances. He cautioned drivers to watch out for first-responders working along the roadways and don't get distracted by cell phones.

Jon Studnek, of Medic, said the weather exacerbates issues the agency has faced in recent weeks and during the pandemic. Studnek said people with low acuity symptoms will likely be directed to a nurse line and ambulances may take longer to get to them.

“We've been facing challenges for a while,” Studnek said. “An ice storm will compound the issues the community faces as it relates to receiving emergency health care within our community. The hospitals are still full. The emergency departments are still crowded and we are still transporting upward of 30 COVID-positive patients a day. So when you add an ice storm on top of this, it will exacerbate the situation.”

Other tips

Don't overdue the shoveling and plowing. You don't want to call 911 for shortness of breath and chest pain.

Stay away from downed power lines, even if they appear dead.

Be careful with power tools or generators. Make sure you are using them properly.

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