Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Episode 605 (11-29-21): Preparing for the Season of Freezing Water

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:17).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 11-26-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of November 29, 2021.  This episode is part of a series this year of winter-related episodes.

MUSIC – ~10 sec – instrumental.

That excerpt of “Midwinter Etude,” by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg, Va., opens our annual episode on winter preparedness.  This coincides with Virginia Winter Weather Awareness Week, which is being observed this year from November 29 to December 3, according to the Wakefield, Va., National Weather Service office.

In 2021, winter astronomically begins in Virginia on December 21 at 10:59 a.m.  That’s the Eastern Standard time of the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, when that hemisphere is at its maximum annual tilt away from the sun. 

At its beginning, middle, or end, winter can bring cold temperatures, hazardous roads, power outages, and fire hazards.  To help you be prepared, here are 10 tips compiled from information provided by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

1. Avoid traveling in winter-storm conditions if you can. If you must travel, get road conditions from the Virginia 511 telephone system, Web site, or app.   And have an emergency kit for your vehicle, including jumper cables, water, non-perishable food, blankets, a flashlight, and other items.

2. Have battery-powered sources of lighting and information, particularly weather information, along with enough batteries to last through a power outage of several days.  Whenever possible, use flashlights and not candles during power outages.  If you do use candles, put them in safe holders away from anything combustible, and don’t leave a burning candle unattended.

3.  Make a family emergency plan that covers sheltering; evacuation from your area; escape from a home fire; emergency meeting places; communications; a supply of food, water, and medications; and other factors specific to your circumstances; and practice your plan.

4.  Get fireplaces, wood stoves, and chimneys inspected and cleaned.

5.  Install a smoke detector in every bedroom and on every floor level, test them monthly, and replace the batteries at least annually.

6.  Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and check or replace the battery every six months.

7.  If you use space heaters, make sure they’ll switch off automatically if the heater falls over; plug them into wall outlets, not extension cords; keep them at least three feet from combustible objects; don’t leave heaters unattended; and check for cracked or damaged wires or plugs.

8.  Generators, camp stoves, and other devices that burn gasoline or charcoal should be used outdoors only.

9.  Learn where to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.

And 10.  Be careful of overexertion during snow shoveling.

More information on preparing for winter weather, fires, and other emergencies is available online from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, at vaemergency.gov.

Next time the forecast calls for snow, freezing rain, or other wintry weather, here’s hoping that you can stay warm, dry, and safe.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 25 more seconds of “Midwinter Etude.” 

MUSIC – ~28 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Midwinter Etude,” from the 1996 album “Incarnation,” is copyright by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  More information about Mr. Seaman is available online at http://timothyseaman.com/en/.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 561, 1-25-21.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at http://www.bencosgrove.com.


Snow and ice on a seasonal pond at Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., December 26, 2020.

Snow along Toms Creek at Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., December 26, 2020.

Ice hanging from tree twigs at Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., February 20, 2021.


On Winter Weather Preparedness

The following information is quoted from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), “Winter Weather,” online at https://www.vaemergency.gov/winter-weather/, accessed 11/29/21.

Winter storms can range from freezing rain or ice, to a few hours of moderate snowfall, to a blizzard that lasts for several days.  Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures, power outages and unpredictable road conditions.  Before, during, and after a winter storm, roads and walkways may become extremely dangerous or impassable.  Access to critical community services such as public transportation, child care, healthcare providers and schools may be limited.  Preparing your home, car and family before cold weather and a winter storm arrives is critical.

Overview for Dealing with a Winter Storm
*During a winter storm, stay off the roads as much as possible and only drive when absolutely necessary.  Always give snow plows the right of way.
*Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning device inside your home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any other partially enclosed area.
*Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks!  Always avoid overexertion when shoveling.
*When severe weather occurs, plan to check on elderly or disabled neighbors and relatives.
*If you must travel, know road conditions before you leave home.  Visit 511Virginia.org or call 511 for road condition updates.
*Protect yourself from frostbite!  Hands, feet and face are the most commonly affected areas so wear a hat, mittens (which are warmer than gloves) and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.
*Keep dry!  Change out of wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.
*Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer or heavy clothing.

Prepare Your Home
*Make sure your home is properly insulated.
*Check the weather stripping around your windows and doors.
*Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.
*Have additional heat sources on hand in case of a power outages.
*Keep a fire extinguisher accessible.
*Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector annually.

Prepare Your Car
*Batteries lose power as temperatures drop, be sure to have yours tested.
*Check your car’s antifreeze level.
*Have your radiator system serviced.
*Replace your car’s windshield wiper fluid with a wintertime mix.
*Proactively replace your car’s worn tires and wiper blades.
*To help with visibility, clean [snow or ice] off your car entirely, including your trunk, roof, windows and headlights.

Did You Know?
*Dehydration can make you more susceptible to hypothermia.
*If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet!  Don’t leave pets outside for prolonged periods of time and have plenty of fresh, unfrozen water on hand.
*Each year, snow, sleet, slush and/or ice on the road leads to approximately, 537,000 crashes, 136,000 injuries, and 1,800 deaths.
*It can snow at temperatures well above freezing
*Temperatures do not have to be below zero degrees to cause harm

On Fire Safety

The following information is quoted from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), “Fires,” online at https://www.vaemergency.gov/fires/, accessed 11/29/21.

In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening.  In just five minutes, a home can be engulfed in flames.

Learn About Fires
*Fire is FAST! 
In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house or for it to be engulfed in flames.
*Fire is HOT! 
Heat is more threatening than flames. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super-hot air will scorch your lungs and melt clothes to your skin.
*Fire is DARK! 
Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness.
*Fire is DEADLY! 
Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.

Create and Practice a Fire Escape Plan
*In the event of a fire, remember that every second counts, so you and your family must always be prepared.  Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly.
*Twice each year, practice your home fire escape plan.  Some tips to consider when preparing this plan include:
*Find two ways to get out of each room in the event the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke.
*A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
*Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
*Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
*Teach children not to hide from firefighters.  

Smoke Alarms
*A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.
*Install both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms, OR dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.
*Test batteries monthly.
*Replace batteries in battery-powered and hard-wired smoke alarms at least once a year (except non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries).
*Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, both inside and outside of sleeping areas.
*Replace the entire smoke alarm unit every 8-10 years or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
*Never disable a smoke alarm while cooking – it can be a deadly mistake.

Smoke Alarm Safety for People with Access or Functional Needs
*Audible alarms for visually impaired people should pause with a small window of silence between each successive cycle so that they can listen to instructions or voices of others.
*Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for the hearing impaired. Contact your local fire department for information about obtaining a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm.
*Smoke alarms with a strobe light outside the home to catch the attention of neighbors, and emergency call systems for summoning help, are also available.

During a Fire
*Crawl low under any smoke to your exit – heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling.
*Before opening a door, feel the doorknob and door. If either is hot, or if there is smoke coming around the door, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
*If you open a door, open it slowly. Be ready to shut it quickly if heavy smoke or fire is present.
*If you can’t get to someone needing assistance, leave the home and call 9-1-1 or the fire department. Tell the emergency operator where the person is located.
*If pets are trapped inside your home, tell firefighters right away.
*If you can’t get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep smoke out.  Call 9-1-1 or your fire department. Say where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
*If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll – stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands.  Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out.  If you or someone else cannot stop, drop, and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel.  Use cool water to treat the burn immediately for 3 to 5 minutes.  Cover with a clean, dry cloth.  Get medical help right away by calling 9-1-1 or the fire department.

Fire Escape Planning for Older Adults and People with Access or Functional Needs
*Live near an exit. You’ll be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment building. If you live in a multi-story home, arrange to sleep on the ground floor, and near an exit.
*If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you get through the doorways.
*Make any necessary accommodations, such as providing exit ramps and widening doorways, to facilitate an emergency escape.
*Speak to your family members, building manager, or neighbors about your fire safety plan and practice it with them.
*Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency line and explain your special needs. Ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.
*Keep a phone near your bed and be ready to call 911 or your local emergency number if a fire occurs.

After a Fire – The following checklist serves as a quick reference and guide for you to follow after a fire strikes.
*Contact your local disaster relief service, such as The Red Cross, if you need temporary housing, food and medicines.
*If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting fire damage restoration companies.  If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for aid and assistance.
*Check with the fire department to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire.  The fire department should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site.  DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
*Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items.  Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made.  Try to locate valuable documents and records.
*Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss.  The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on income tax.
*Notify your mortgage company of the fire.

*Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
*Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
*Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove.
*Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

*Smoke outside and completely stub out butts in an ashtray or a can filled with sand.
*Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
*Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if it is turned off. Oxygen can be explosive and makes fire burn hotter and faster.
*Be alert – don’t smoke in bed! If you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy, put your cigarette out first.

Electrical and Appliance Safety
*Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
*If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
*Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.

Portable Space Heaters
*Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices.
*Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
*Check to make the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
*Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene in kerosene heaters. Never overfill it. Use the heater in a well-ventilated room.

Fireplaces and Woodstoves
*Inspect and clean woodstove pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions.
*Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.
*Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.

*Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
*Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet.
*Never leave children unattended near operating stoves or burning candles, even for a short time. 

More Prevention Tips
*Never use a stove range or oven to heat your home.
*Keep combustible and flammable liquids away from heat sources.
*Portable generators should NEVER be used indoors and should only be refueled outdoors or in well-ventilated areas.


American Red Cross, “Winter Storm Safety,” online at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm.html, or contact your local Red Cross chapter.

Farmers’ Almanac, “Winter Solstice 2021: When Is It, and What Is It?” online at https://www.farmersalmanac.com/winter-solstice-first-day-winter.

Federal Emergency Management Agency:
“Build a Kit,” online at https://www.ready.gov/kit;
“Car Safety,” online at https://www.ready.gov/car;
“Make a Plan,” online at https://www.ready.gov/plan;
“Snowstorms and Extreme Cold,” online at http://www.ready.gov/winter-weather.

“Winter Storm,” online at https://community.fema.gov/ProtectiveActions/s/article/Winter-Storm.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Weather Radio All Hazards” network, online at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/.

National Weather Service/Cleveland, Ohio, Forecast Office, “The Seasons, the Equinox, and the Solstices,” online at https://www.weather.gov/cle/seasons.

National Weather Service, “Weather and Water Events Preparedness Calendar,” online at https://www.weather.gov/safety/events_calendar.  This page lists events, such as “Winter Weather Awareness Day/Week,” by state.

National Weather Service/Wakefield, Va., Forecast Office, “Virginia Winter Weather Awareness Week,” online at https://www.weather.gov/akq/WinterWeatherAwarenessWeek.

Smithsonian Science Education Center, “What is the Winter Solstice,” online at https://ssec.si.edu/stemvisions-blog/what-winter-solstice.

TimeandDate.com, “Winter Solstice—Shortest Day of the Year,” online at https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“Carbon Monoxide Poisoning/Frequently Asked Questions,” online at https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm;
“Proper Use of Candles During a Power Outage,” online at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/candles.html.

U.S. Department of Energy, “Small Space Heaters,” online at https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/small-space-heaters.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), online at https://www.vaemergency.gov/.  This is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s central source of information on preparedness for all types of emergencies and disasters.  See particularly the following pages:
“Winter Weather,” online at https://www.vaemergency.gov/winter-weather/;
“Fires,” online at https://www.vaemergency.gov/fires/;
“Make an Car Emergency Kit” (1 min./31 sec. video), online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPgvWgtiWHI.

Virginia Department of Health, “Winter Weather Preparedness,” online at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/public-relations-contacts/winter-weather-preparedness/. 

Virginia Department of Transportation, “Virginia Traffic Information,” online at http://www.511virginia.org/.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Weather/Climate/Natural Disasters” subject category.

Following are links to previous years’ winter-preparedness episodes with different musical selections.

Episode 292, 11-30-15 – featuring “Winter is Coming” by The Steel Wheels.
Episode 396, 11-27-17 – featuring “Winter’s Fall” by No Strings Attached.
Episode 448, 11-26-18 – featuring “New Boots” by John McCutcheon.
Episode 501, 12-2-19
– featuring “Cold Frosty Morn’” by New Standard.
Episode 553, 11-30-20
– featuring “Drive the Cold Winter Away” by Timothy Seaman and “Cold World” by Kat Mills

Following are links to several other winter-related episodes, including episodes on some birds that reside in Virginia typically only in winter (listed separately).  Please note that some of these episodes are being redone in late 2021 and early 2022; in those cases, the respective links below will have information on the updated episodes.

Freezing and ice – Episode 403, 1-15-18 (especially for grades K-3).
Frost – Episode 597, 10-4-21.
Ice on ponds and lakes – Episode 404, 1-22-18 (especially for grades 4-8).
Ice on rivers – Episode 406, 2-5-18 (especially for middle school grades).
Polar Plunge® for Special Olympics – Episode 356, 2-20-17.
Snow physics and chemistry – Episode 407, 2-12-18 (especially for high school grades).
Snow, sleet, and freezing rain – Episode 461, 2-25-19.
Snow terms – Episode 300, 1-25-16.
Surviving freezing – Episode 556, 12-21-20.
Winter precipitation and water supplies – Episode 567, 3-8-21.
Water thermodynamics – Episode 195, 1-6-14.

Bird-related Episodes for Winter

Audubon Christmas Bird CountEpisode 294, 12-14-15.
American Avocet – Episode 543, 9-21-20.
Brant (goose) – Episode 502, 12-9-19.
Canvasback (duck) – Episode 604, 11-22-21.
Common Goldeneye (duck) – Episode 303, 2/15/16.
Green-winged Teal (duck) – Episode 398, 12-11-17.
Grebes (Horned and Red-necked) – Episode 233, 9-29-14.
Loons – Episode 445, 11-5-18.
Northern Harrier – Episode 561, 1-25-21.
Fall migration – Episode 603, 11-15-21.
Snow Goose – Episode 507, 1/13/20.
Tundra Swan – Episode 554, 12-7-20.
Winter birds sampler from the Chesapeake Bay area – Episode 565, 2-22-21.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs 

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs 

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
4.6 – There are relationships among Earth, the moon, and the sun, including the causes for Earth’s seasons.

Grade 6
6.3 – There is a relationship between the sun, Earth, and the moon, including that Earth’s tilt as it revolves around the sun causes the seasons.

Earth Science
ES.3 – Earth is unique in our solar system, including that the dynamics of the sun-Earth-moon system cause seasons, tides, and eclipses.
ES.12 – The Earth’s weather and climate result from the interaction of the sun’s energy with the atmosphere, oceans, and the land. 

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels (* indicates episode listed above in the “Related Water Radio Episodes” section).

Episode 250, 1-26-15
– on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
*Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
*Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
*Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
*Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.