February’s winter storm had few effects on how Smith County and city of Tyler officials are recommending residents prepare for freezing temperatures during the next several months.
Paul Findley, fire marshal and public information officer for the Tyler Fire Department, said he believes residents will be more prepared and cautious of severe weather events after Winter Storm Uri.
A group of city and county organizations, partners and emergency responders recently created the annual cold weather response plan, which details resources available for community members and helps them prepare, according to Findley.
While the plan has been updated, not many changes were made after Uri, Findley said, adding the plan traditionally does not change from year to year.
However, having experienced Winter Storm Uri, Findley said, “I think because of that event earlier in the year with the severe winter weather, it’s obviously on more people’s minds now.”
This plan includes tips to avoid exposure to the cold, how to recognize signs and symptoms of cold weather related emergencies and resources available in the county and city during winter months.
“From an emergency perspective, we try to prevent what we can and prepare for weather-related things which we can’t prevent, but we can prepare for,” Findley said.
While this year’s winter is predicted to be dryer and warmer, that doesn’t mean cold weather events such as snow won’t happen, so it’s important to be ready, he said.
The response plan touches on hypothermia, frostbite and how people can stay safe and warm in the cold. It also offers safety tips around the home, available shelters and other resources, Findley said.
He said it is helpful to sign up for the free State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry and RAVE Mobile Safety information.
State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry is for residents who may have a disability that could cause more of a challenge if evacuation is needed, Findley said. Sign up for STEAR by visiting tdem.texas.gov/stear/ or over the phone by dialing 211.
RAVE notifies residents about an incoming weather event, emergencies, closed roads and more. Sign up for RAVE by visiting tinyurl.com/smart911signup .
Residents who need information or administrative assistance should contact the Tyler Fire Department at (903) 535-0005.
During after hours or to report hazardous, non-emergency conditions, call either the Tyler Police Department at (903) 531-1000 or the Smith County Sheriff’s Office at (903) 566-6600.
Parts of the cold weather response plan include:
Hypothermia and frostbite
Hypothermia is when body temperature drops below 90 degrees. This occurs when the body is exposed to cold temperatures and begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it.
When body temperatures get too low, it can affect the brain, causing the person to be unable to think clearly or move well.
Hypothermia symptoms to watch for include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory loss, frequent stumbling, drowsiness and exhaustion.
Frostbite is a bodily injury caused by freezing and causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. Most often, the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes are affected. Permanent damage can be caused by frostbite and in severe cases can even lead to amputation.
Signs of frostbite can include white or grayish-yellow skin area, unusually firm or waxy skin, pins and needles followed by numbness and red and extremely painful skin/muscles as the area thaws.
If either frostbite or hypothermia are seen, the person should be warmed up slowly and medical help should be received immediately.
Hypothermia is a more serious medical condition that requires immediate medical assistance. If there are signs of frostbite but not hypothermia and immediate care is not available, people should:
- Get into a warm room.
- Unless necessary, do not walk if you have frostbite on your toes or feet.
- Immerse affected area(s) in warm water. The water should not be hot.
- Warm affected area using body heat.
- Do not rub the affected area with snow or massage it. This could cause more damage.
- Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator to warm because affected areas are warm and can easily be burned.
Watches, advisories and warnings
A watch is issued during the 24- to 72-hour forecast time frame when the risk of hazardous winter weather has increased and there is a 50% to 80% certainty the warning thresholds will be met, according to the response plan.
Watches can include winter chill watch and winter storm watch.
Advisories can include winter weather advisories, freezing rain advisory and wind chill advisories.
Warnings can include ice storm warnings, wind chill warnings and winter storm warnings.
Shelters during the cold weather
- Salvation Army: 24-hour shelter for the homeless or near homeless. Contact (903) 592-4361.
- American Red Cross: Open on demand so depends if there is a declared emergency. Contact (903) 581-7981 or 1-866-505-4801.
- Medical facilities: Hospitals, clinics and stand-alone emergency rooms.
- Salvation Army: Open 24/7 at 633. N Broadway. Contact (903) 592-4361.
- Local fire stations: Check with individual facilities for activities and accommodations.
- Broadway Square Mall and other retail outlets.
- Hiway 80 Rescue Mission: Open 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 601 E Valentine. Contact (903) 617-6097 or (903) 261-9183.
- Movie theaters: Ceck with individual facilities for activities and accommodations.
- Churches: Check with individual facilities for activities and accommodations.
- Schools: Check with individual facilities for activities and accommodations.
- Tyler Fire Department: For available shelter locations, call (903) 535-0005 or 911.
- Glass Recreation Center: This location is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 501 W. 32nd St. For information, call (903) 595-7271.
- Tyler Public Library: This location is open to the public 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 201 S. College. Call (903) 593-7327 for information.
- Senior Citizen Activity Center: Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1915 Garden Valley Road. For information about services, call (903) 597-0781.
- Rose Garden: Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 420 Rose Park Drive. For information, call (902) 531-1349.
Smith County daytime locations:
- Smith County Office of Emergency Management: Call (903) 590-2655 for information.
- Smith County Emergency Service Department No. 1: Call (903) 882-3443 for information.
- Smith County Emergency Service Department No. 2: Call (903) 617-6578 for information.
- Smith County Sheriff’s Office, non-emergency: Call (903) 566-6600 for information.
At-risk residents going to heated shelters or daytime locations may be able to receive transportation from family, friends, neighbors, Tyler Transit, hospital transit vans or cab companies. The individual agency should be contacted to find out availability.
Reporting an issue:
To report electrical issues, power line issues, or concerns about tree limbs, call Oncore at (888) 313-6862 or visit www.oncor.com/us/en/home/faqs.html .
To report hazardous street conditions in the city or Tyler, call (903) 535-1000. In Smith County, call (903) 566-6600.