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As we have already experienced to some extent during the past month, winter in east Kentucky can bring heavy snow, ice storms, sleet, and bitter cold. Even severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes and flash floods are possible. Now is the time to prepare for whatever winter may bring and the National Weather Service offices that serve the state of Kentucky along with the Kentucky Weather Preparedness Committee and Kentucky Emergency Management have designated December 1-7 as Winter Weather Awareness Week across the Commonwealth.

Each year, dozens of Americans die due to exposure to the cold. Even more fatalities occur in vehicle accidents, fires caused by heaters, or due to carbon monoxide poisoning from the improper use of generators during power outages. The aftermath of a winter storm can also have an impact on a community for days, weeksor even months. Ultimatelyit is up to every citizen to be prepared for what winter may bring!

Building a Weather-Ready East Kentucky starts at home and one of the most effective ways families can prepare for any disaster is to build an emergency kit. A basic emergency kit should have a three day supply of food, water and medicine, along with the essential supplies family will need in the event of a prolonged power outage when travel is not possible.

Know the risks your community faces and monitor weather forecasts. When a winter storm is in the forecast, communicate with family members and know their location and travel plans. Make sure all family members are able to get emergency alerts.

While the best idea is to just stay home during winter storms, sometimes that's not possible. Winterize your vehicle now, while the weather is relatively warm, and keep an emergency kit in your car. Weather conditions can vary greatly within short distances here in the mountains so make sure to check the forecast and road conditions along your route of travel. Road conditions and additional snow and ice information from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet can be found at snowky.ky.gov.

Winter Weather Awareness Week is a perfect time for families, communities, schoolsand businesses to review their plans and build or resupply their emergency kits. To help that effort, the National Weather Service in Jackson will share winter weather preparedness information throughout the week via the web, Facebookand Twitter. Partner organizations and the media are also encouraged to participate. The National Weather Service has made various winter weather preparedness articles, infographicsand social media plans available for use atwww.weather.gov/jkl/winterawareness.

Organizations that would like to partner with the National Weather Service to build a Weather-Ready Nation should consider becoming a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador. The Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador initiative is intended for organizations and designed to help serve the public by strengthening our national resilience against extreme weather events. For more information and to apply, go towww.weather.gov/wrn/ambassadors.

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