The ice storm that’s expected this weekend in Kansas City could be a prolonged storm and cause power outages, knock down trees and make travel hazardous.
Spencer Mell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill, Mo., urged people to do some advance planning before the storm arrives.
“If they have any generators, they should make sure they are ready to be up and running and any gas that they may need,” Mell said.
The American Red Cross has tips for safe generator use, which includes never using portable generators indoors.
Because it will be cold, Mell suggested people have alternative ways to stay warm.
Some ways to stay warm include limiting activities to one room, putting on extra layers of clothing including hats and gloves, and using a gas or wood fireplace.
People should also make sure they have plenty of their medications as well as a supply of nonperishable food.
When it comes to trees and plants in your yard, there’s very little you can do, said Dennis Patton, a horticulturist for the Johnson County Kansas State University Research and Extension Office in Olathe.
“There’s absolutely nothing you can do with the large trees, shrubs and those types of things,” Patton said. “You just let the chips fall where they may.”
One exception are small accent ornamental evergreens. Patton suggested people take rope or bungee cords and pull them together.
“What tends to happen is that these upright arborvitae kind of peel like a banana, and then it’s really hard to get them back into shape after the ice load is gone,” Patton said.
But for the most part, trying to prevent harm could cause more damage.
“Limbs and branches have a certain amount of flexibility and natural ability to bend and sway in wind,” he said. “If you start propping them up and tying them up, then you disrupt the natural ability to bend, move and sway.”
If the ice does accumulate on trees, shrubs or other vegetation, Patton suggested people ignore it.
“If you go out there and start batting it around to knock it off, you cause potentially more stress on that plant,” Patton said. “You potentially could bruise or damage the bark layer of the tree.”
The other concern is that when ice chips and falls, it’s as sharp as glass. So people could seriously injure themselves.
“It’s better to walk away and let nature take its course,” Patton said.
With a warmup coming Sunday, the ice should quickly melt off of branches.
The Johnson County Kansas State University Research and Extension Office website has information on how to safely use ice melt and de-icers.
If the ice storm does knock out power, there are a few food safety things to consider.
The first is making sure your refrigerator and freezer are set at the right temperatures so that your food is safe to start with, said Crystal Futrell, health and food safety extension agent for the Johnson County Kansas State University Research and Extension Office in Olathe.
Futrell recommended that people have a thermometer for both their refrigerator and freezer.
The freezer should be set at zero degrees or below. The refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees or below.
“If the power goes out, it is recommended that you try not to open the doors as much as possible,” she said. “Food in a full freezer can stay frozen up to 48 hours. If it’s halfway full, it’s 24 hours.”
In a closed refrigerator, food will stay safe for up to four hours.
If you believe the power will be out longer than four hours, you can start moving things like milk, cheeses, meats and anything else you won’t need immediately to the freezer.
She suggested people know in advance where to get dry ice.
“We do not recommend people store things outside,” Futrell said. “Air temperatures are so fluctuant, they are just not reliable sources of cold.”
But what people can do is fill empty milk jugs or other containers with water and let it freeze outside and then use that ice.
If the power has been out longer than four hours, she suggested people toss out any food that has a bad odor.
Food that has ice crystals still left can be salvageable. People can also use a meat thermometer to check temperatures of food. If it’s 40 degrees or below, it’s still safe to use.
“The biggest thing is, if you think it’s bad, don’t taste it. ... Just toss it out,” Futrell said.