COLUMBUS, OH — According to the annual National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Winter Outlook, there is a 70-75 percent chance of El Nin᷉o forming over the next couple of months and lasting through this winter. What does that mean? The winter season will start off mild for most of the region before colder weather hits in January and February.

According to NOAA, El Nin᷉o is an ocean-atmosphere climate interaction that is linked to periodic warming in sea surface temperatures in central and eastern Pacific equator.

Ohio experienced winter like weather last month, with freezing temperatures, frost, and in the northern counties, snow. Ohioans are encouraged to prepare early for the upcoming winter season.

In a coordinated effort, Gov. John R. Kasich and the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA) recognize November 11-17 as Winter Safety Awareness Week. During this week, Gov. Kasich encourages individuals to update their safety plans, replenish supplies in their emergency kits, and prepare themselves, their vehicles and property for winter-related incidents.

“Winter Safety Awareness Week is the perfect time for all of us to check our supplies and start preparing our homes and vehicles for winter,” said Ohio EMA Executive Director Sima Merick. “Remember – winter safety isn’t just being prepared for cold, snow and ice. In February of this year, 22 counties received a federal disaster declaration for flooding. So, during this week, check your homeowners or renters insurance. Consider purchasing flood insurance. Prepare for severe weather now, before winter officially begins.”

OCSWA recommends the following winter preparedness tips:

Practice fire safety and prevention. With winter months and the holiday season, people are indoors more, and cook, decorate and entertain more – which unfortunately, can lead to more home fires. The best protection is to have working smoke detectors in the home. Test your smoke detectors monthly. Conduct fire drills. Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year – when you change your clocks, change your batteries. Have auxiliary heaters, furnaces and fireplaces checked or serviced before using. Cooking-related fires are the number one cause of home fires. Never leave cooking food unattended. Keep towels, potholders, and paper products away from the stove’s heat sources.

Prepare your home for winter. Remove and cut away low-hanging and dead tree branches. Strong winds, ice and snow can cause tree limbs to break and could cause damage to your home. Have your gutters cleaned. Snow and ice can build up quickly if clogged with debris.

Prepare winter emergency supplies kits for the home and vehicle. Check the expiration dates on nonperishable food items, bottled water/beverages and medications. Winter emergency kits should include flashlights, extra batteries, blankets, coats, hats, gloves, a battery-operated radio/weather radio, first aid kit, cell phone and charger, and enough nonperishable food and water (one gallon per person, per day) to sustain every household member for several days. Store food, bottled water and supplies for your pets, as well.

Check on your neighbors. Comprehensive preparedness requires communities to participate in a “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” approach. If severe weather is forecast or has just occurred, or if your neighborhood has an extended power outage, check on your neighbors and family members – especially those who are older or have functional needs – to ensure that they are okay and that they have the resources to stay safe and warm. Your communication plan might include exchanging phone numbers to call during times of need.