This week, Northern Virginia was hit with Hurricane Sandy, a storm unusual for its late season arrival and made even more powerful by its convergence with a cold front. While Northern Virginia was mostly spared the brunt of the storm, more than 100,000 individuals in the region woke up Tuesday morning without power.
By Tuesday morning, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Virginia, directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide assistance to the Commonwealth’s state and local authorities. As damage to private property is assessed in the coming days, Governor Bob McDonnell may also request federal support for individuals impacted by Sandy. I will work to ensure all necessary federal support is provided to our community.
I applaud the tireless efforts of our first responders, utility companies, and local and state government officials and staff who worked through the night to respond to the storm’s impact on our community. As we recover from Sandy’s impact, we should keep our fellow citizens in surrounding states in our thoughts and prayers.
Following this week’s storm, FEMA provided some helpful tips on what you can do following a hurricane:
- Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
- Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building, or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
- Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
- Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
Hurricane Sandy provides us an opportunity to think about ways we can prepare our homes for the winter months. The Department of Energy provided several tips to cut down on energy costs and get ready for any snow storms that may come.
- Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
- Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
- Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.
- Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands.
- Schedule service for your heating system. If you have a furnace, replace your furnace filter once a month or as needed.
To prepare for winter snowstorms, the Red Cross suggests keeping the following items in your home:
- At least a three day supply of water; one gallon per person per day
- At least a three day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Sand, rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery
Disaster preparedness requires us to hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. The tips above will help your family save money on energy bills this winter and be ready should a snowstorm hit Northern Virginia. To read more about ways to winterize your home, visit the Department of Energy’s website here: http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.