Winter Storms

Before a winter storm strikes, make sure you're prepared.

The dangers of winter storms include icy roads, exposure and hypothermia, traffic accidents, heart attacks, and power loss. Before a winter storm strikes, make sure your home and vehicles are stocked with the supplies you might need during a storm event. The National Weather Service issues advisories (storm expected/use caution), watches (storm possible/prepare now), and warnings (severe storm/act now) for all winter weather hazards to help you make an informed decision on your risk and what actions should be taken.

Did you know that…

  • Black ice is most prevalent during the early morning hours after snow melt has a chance to refreeze over night.
  • Nor’easters develop off the East Coast between Georgia and New Jersey and nearly always bring heavy rain or snow, as well as gale force winds, rough seas and coastal flooding.
  • Wind gusts during blizzards can reach 50 to 60 mph. Strong winds will quickly pick up fresh snow and create whiteout conditions.
  • Dangerous cold temperatures follow behind Arctic fronts, and those stranded in their vehicle or forced to walk outside is at risk of frostbite or hypothermia.

Winter Storm Preparedness Tips:

HOME

Primary concerns at home or work during a winter storm are loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day. Have available:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery or solar-powered portable radio to receive emergency information
  • Water and extra food for 3 days requiring no cooking or refrigeration, plus manual can opener
  • Extra prescription medicine
  • Heating fuel: refuel before storm if low; fuel carriers may not deliver for days after a storm
  • Emergency heat source: fireplace, wood stove or space heater, properly ventilated to prevent a fire
  • Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector – check at least once a year.
  • Generator — Remember never run a generator in an enclosed space
  • Snow shovels, snow removal equipment and ice melt for walkways
  • If the storm causes a loss of power and heat:
  • Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels in cracks under doors and cover windows at night
  • Allow faucets to drip a little to avoid pipes freezing
  • If pipes freeze, wrap the pipes in rags
  • Shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts
  • Use extreme caution when using alternative heating sources – refuel heaters outside, keep them at least three feet from flammable objects and maintain good ventilation
  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing; wear gloves and a hat to help prevent loss of body heat

VEHICLE

You never know when you will encounter winter weather or a road closure. Each year, more than 6,000 people are killed and more than 480,000 are injured due to weather-related vehicle crashes. If you need to drive in a winter storm, TAKE IT SLOWLY. If the temperature is near freezing, drive like you’re on ice– black ice can be difficult to see.

  • Prepare your vehicles with a Winter Storm Survival Kit that includes mobile phone & charger, blankets, flashlight with extra batteries, high-calorie non-perishable food, large empty can for sanitary purposes, paper towels, candles & waterproof matches, sand or cat litter, shovel, windshield scraper, tool kit, rope, battery booster cables, water container, road maps (don’t depend on devices with limited battery life)
  • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines
  • Stay on main roads and try to only travel during the day
  • When traveling, be sure to let someone know where you are going, along with your primary and alternate routes
  • If you are trapped in your car during a blizzard, pull off the highway, turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the window
  • Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you and do not set out on foot during a blizzard unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour, open a window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe to guard against possible carbon monoxide poisoning

OUTDOORS

  • Use caution not to over exert yourself when shoveling snow — heart attacks caused by overexertion are a major cause of death in the winter
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extremely cold air
  • Keep dry, changing wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat
  • Cover all exposed body parts
  • Watch for signs of frostbite including loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and exhaustion
  • If no shelter, build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind
  • Melt snow for drinking water – eating snow lowers body temperature

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