A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied with high winds, freezing rain, sleet, heavy snowfall and cold temperatures. Driving and walking can be extremely hazardous during winter storms. Always listen to the radio and television for the latest information and instructions for your area.
BEFORE A WINTER STORM
- Have a disaster plan.
- Prepare a winter storm preparedness kit for your home and car. See below for details.
- Be aware of changing weather. Keep informed via weather radio, weather apps, and television.
DURING A WINTER STORM
- Stay indoors and dress warmly.
- Eat regularly. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
- Drink plenty of water. Also, drink warm broth and juices.
- If you must go outside, wear layered clothing, mittens and a hat.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing to prevent the loss of body heat.
- If you must drive, carry a cell phone.
- Keep the gas tank full.
- Let someone know where you’re going, just in case your car gets stuck.
- If your car gets stuck, stay with it and wait for help unless help is visible within 100 yards.
AFTER A WINTER STORM
- Avoid driving until conditions have improved.
- Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling snow are the leading cause of deaths during the winter.
- Check on neighbors to make sure they are okay.
Preparing for Winter Storms
Understand the Signs
Know Your Winter Storm Warning Terms
- Winter Weather Advisory: Expect winter weather condition (e.g., accumulation of snow, freezing rain, and sleet) that could cause severe inconvenience and life-threatening hazards.
- Frost/Freeze Warning: Expect below-freezing temperatures.
- Winter Storm Watch: Be alert; a storm is likely.
- Winter Storm Warning: Take action; the storm is in or entering the area.
- Blizzard Warning: Seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snow drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.
- Black Ice: a thin coating of glazed ice on a surface.
Make sure you have at least one of the following in case there is a power failure
- Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries.
- Battery-powered radio, with extra batteries, for listening to local emergency instructions
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio receiver for listening to National Weather Service broadcasts.
Find out how your community warns the public about severe weather
- Local public health and emergency management websites
- Listen to emergency broadcasts.
Make a Family Communication Plan
Your family may not be together during an extreme winter event, so it is important to know how you will contact one another. How you will get back together? What will you do during an emergency? Who will check on older neighbors and family members? Who is able and how will they assist if needed?
A family communication plan can help you answer these and more questions before the winter weather arrives, and promote safety and accountablity throughout the storm.
- Have at least one heat sources in good repair in case the power goes out. Consider a Fireplace, portable space heater, kerosene heater, or electric generator to provide heat during the outage
- Collect extra blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter coats, mittens, gloves, scarves, and hats for everyone.
- Fireplace is in good repair with plenty of dry firewood or your gas log fireplace is usable
- Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters are operational and handy
- Check with your local fire department to make sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area.
- Use individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords to plug in other appliances.
- Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements.
- Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes.
- Have the following safety equipment:
- Chemical fire extinguisher is handy
- Smoke alarm is in working order (Check prior to winter storm season and change batteries, if needed.)
- Carbon monoxide detector is operational (Check prior to winter storm season and change batteries if needed.)
- Never turn on the stove for heat. IT IS NOT SAFE!
- Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet.
- Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.
- Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
- Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
Cooking and Lighting Checklist
- Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns.
- Never use charcoal grills or portable gas camp stoves indoors. The fumes are deadly.
- Avoid using candles as these can lead to house fires.
Food and Safety Checklist
Have a week’s worth of food and safety supplies. If you live far from other people, have more supplies on hand. Make sure you have the following supplies:
- Drinking water
- Canned/no-cook food (bread, crackers, dried fruits)
- Non-electric can opener
- Baby food and formula (if baby in the household)
- Prescription drugs (Rx) and other medicine
- First-aid kit
- Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
- Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to add traction on walkways
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Battery-powered lamps or lanterns (To prevent the risk of fire, avoid using candles.)
- Keep a good fresh water supply. Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes break.
- Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously to help prevent pipes freezing.
- Keeping the indoor temperature warm can also help prevent pipes freezing.
- Allow more heated air near pipes. Open kitchen cabinet doors under the kitchen sink.
- If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer.
- If you cannot thaw your pipes, or if the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home.
- Fill the bathtub or have bottled water on hand.
In an emergency, if no other water is available, snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs, but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow.
Car and Emergency Checklist
Minimize travel, but if travel is necessary, keep the following in your vehicle:
- Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
- Windshield scraper
- Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Snack foods
The most dangerous of the winter events as you are at the mercy of your vehicle and the ice until you can traverse it successfully is black ice. Black Ice is virtually clear, and forms when the surface air temperature is 32o F or colder and rain is falling. The best recommendation for black ice avoid being out in these conditions, especially at night. If you must drive, know what you are doing. This video link below can help.
Driving on Black Ice
Driving on Black Ice – provides driving techniques for handling the slippery and dangerous conditions if you must be on the icy roads.