Winter Storms can result in downed power lines, flooding and road closures. Without power, and with the lack of heat, hypothermia can affect many people and animals. With road closures, help may not be able to reach you.
Winter storms can immobilize an entire region with extreme cold and heavy snowfall.
Terms to help identify Winter Storm Hazards
Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
Winter Storm Watch:
A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.
Winter Storm Warning:
A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
Below freezing temperatures are expected.(Many people can not remember the difference between a Watch and a Warning.
Try using the following to help you.
A Warning is Happening. Both end in "ing".
A Watch is something you can not see, so you have to Watch for it:
Wait and Watch to see if it happens.)
Combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from a person's body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature.
Before a Winter Storm
Preparation for your Home
♦ Check with a professional to make sure your house is structurally sound. Have the roof inspected to make sure it can handle the weight of a heavy snow. You also want to check the drainage systems so that melting snow water does not do damage. Make sure the water drains away from the house.
♦ Insulate your pipes so they do not freeze. Consider letting your faucets drip a little if the temperature drops below freezing. Moving water will not freeze as fast as standing water. Don't forget the outside faucets.
♦ Prepare your home, the barn and other outbuildings. Clear out the rain gutters, have your roof checked for leaks and make necessary repairs.
♦ Trim any tree branches that could break of and fall during a storm.
♦ Insulate your attics and walls to help hold the heat inside. Check the caulking and weather stripping on all windows and storm doors. If you have old windows, consider replacing them with double or triple pain energy efficient windows. The extra insulation will help save your fuel and lower your heating bills.
♦ Know where your water main valve shut off is located and how to turn it off if a pipe does break.
♦ Know where your gas main valve shut off is located and how to turn it off if you smell gas and think there is a gas leak. Remember, only the gas company can turn the gas back on, and only after an inspection.
♦ Regular fuel sources may be cut off. Have an adequate supply of alternate fuel sources available. For example, if you have a fireplace or a wood burning stove, stock up on dry seasoned wood.
♦ Have your fire extinguishers handy. Make sure everyone knows how to use them properly. Since more people use alternate fuels during winter storms, house fires pose an additional risk. Go over your Family Plan for house fires. Take the extra safety precautions when using fire as a heating source.
♦ If the roads are blocked by snow, the Fire Department may not be able to respond as quickly as usual. Check with them about how many extinguishers you should have, where to keep them, and how to use them properly.
Add the following to your disaster supplies:
Rock Salt - to melt the ice on your driveway and walkways.
Sand - will help improve the traction on your driveway and walkways.
Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
Preparation for your Vehicles
Take your vehicles to your mechanic or dealership for service.
♦ Check your antifreeze levels.
♦ Check your battery and ignition system.
♦ Check your brakes for wear and check the brake fluid.
♦ Check your exhaust system for leaks or crimped pipes.
Carbon Monoxide from the exhaust is deadly. It has no smell.
♦ Check your filters (fuel and air).
Keep water out of your fuel system by using additives and by keeping the gas tank full.
♦ Keep the fuel level in your vehicles at least half a tank full.
♦ Check the heating system and the defroster to make sure they work properly.
♦ Check the lights and the hazard (emergency) lights.
Replace bulbs or have spare bulbs with you in the car.
♦ Check the oil for the proper level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and therefore do not lubricate as well.
Check the owners manual or dealership for options.
♦ Check the thermostat to make sure it is working as it should.
♦ Check the windshield wipers and window washer fluid level.
♦ Check your tires for proper tread. Consider changing to good winter tires. Have chains or snow tires with studs in case they are requires in your area. Check with your local Highway Patrol or State Troopers office for advice and requirements.
Have the Following Winter Emergency Items in Each Vehicle
Flashlight with extra batteries
A battery or crank type radio
Food and Water
A First Aid Kit
An extra warm jacket or blanket, hat, gloves or mittens, socks and scarf
A shovel, windshield scraper and a whisk broom
A pocket knife
Tow chain or rope
Jumper Cables or Booster Cables
Road Salt and/or Road Sand (cat litter can work too)
Fluorescent Distress Flag
Florescent Spray Paint or a darker color spray paint
Dress Appropriately When Going Outside
♦ Dress in layers. Wear several layers of lighter weight warm clothes instead of one heavy layer. The outside layer should be tightly woven and water repellent, such as a raincoat.
♦ Mittens or gloves with thermal liners will help keep your hands warm.
♦ To keep heat from escaping your body, wear a hat and earmuffs. A long knit scarf wrapped around your head, ears and neck will work also.
♦ To protect your lungs from the cold, wrap a warm knit scarf around your mouth.
♦ Wear socks and sturdy waterproof shoes to protect your feet.
During a Winter Storm
♦ Keep informed. Listen to your local news for weather updates and emergency information.
Eat regularly and drink lots of fluids. This will help keep your body functioning properly, and help maintain your normal body temperature. Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can dehydrate you.
♦ To conserve energy and fuel, keep the house at your normal temperature or slightly cooler. Instead of turning up the heat, put on a another layer of clothing.
♦ Close the heater vents in rooms you are not using.
♦ If you are using space heaters, place them away from the walls or any thing that is flammable. Check the cords to make sure they are not frayed. Turn them off when you are not in the room, and when you go to bed.
♦ If you are using a kerosene heater, make sure it has cooled off before refueling it. Refuel it outside the house. Since kerosene heaters can give off toxic fumes, make sure there is enough ventilation in the area. Keep kerosene heaters at least three feet away from anything flammable. Turn off the heater when you go to bed.
If you Go Outside
♦ Dress warmly, in layers, making sure to cover your hand, head and ears. Protect your lungs from the cold by covering your mouth. Talk only when you must, as talking takes the cold air to your lungs.
♦ Keep yourself dry. To avoid loosing body heat, change out of wet clothes as quickly as possible. Keep your feet dry.
♦ Avoid overexertion if you are shoveling snow or doing any other activities. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack, which is a major cause of death in winter time. Before you go outside, do some stretching to get your muscles warmed up. Dress in layers. Avoid getting overheated. Stay dry. Take lots of breaks and stay hydrated.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
Signs of Frostbite
Loss of feeling and a pale appearance in the fingers, toes, your nose and ears.
Signs of Hypothermia
Uncontrollable shivering (your body is trying to create energy to warm itself), disorientation, drowsiness, exhaustion, incoherence and memory loss.
Basic First Aid
Take a CPR/First Aid class
For Frostbite - get the person into a warm environment. Do not rub the area! This can cause more damage. Get medical attention as soon as possible.
For Hypothermia - get the person into a warm environment.
Remove any wet clothing, and get them into dry clothes. Wrap him in a blanket.
If the person is conscious, you can give him a warm (not hot) drink that is not caffeinated or alcoholic. Have him drink slowly to avoid choking.
Get medical attention as soon as possible.
If the person is unconscious, or becomes unconscious, call 9-1-1. Be prepared to give CPR.
Driving in a Winter Storm
Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. Stick to the main road, and travel during daylight hours. Take someone with you if possible. Let someone know where you are going, what route you are taking, and how long you will be gone.
What to do if you are trapped in a Blizzard while driving
♦ Pull your vehicle of to the side of the road.
♦ Turn on your blinkers.
♦ If your car disaster kit is in the truck, get it out and into the car.
♦ Tie a distress flag on your antenna or put it in the window.
♦ Stay in the vehicle! (If you can see a building, and are close to it, you may try to walk there for shelter. Remember that distances can be distorted while snow if falling. A short distance in clear weather will take more time in deep snow, and take more energy.)
♦ Once you have pulled over, turn off the engine. You may start the car and run the heater for 10 minutes every hour. While you are doing this, crack one of the windows (if the wind is blowing, open a window on the "down wind" side). This will help ventilate any carbon monoxide buildup. Carbon monoxide is deadly, and it cannot be seen or smelled. If it is safe to do so, clear any built up snow from the tailpipe.
♦ To maintain your body heat, you can do some mild exercises in the car. Move your arms and legs to keep the circulation going. Put on an extra layer of clothing, or wrap yourself in a blanket.
♦ Drink the water from your Disaster Kit to stay hydrated. Eat something to keep up your energy.
♦ If you get tired, have a person take a nap while the other stays awake to look for rescuers. If you have gone out alone, turn on your portable radio while you nap, so that anyone can hear it if they pass by. Do not turn on the car radio. With the engine running, your are burning fuel, and the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning is greater.
♦ When it gets dark, turn on your flashlight and leave it on, so passers by might see it.
♦ If you are stranded in a more remote area, when it is safe to do so, make a sign in the snow for airborne rescue personnel to see. You can do this by stomping letters in the snow, or using rocks or tree branches to signal for help. Spell out "SOS" or "HELP". If you have your spray paint, you can use it to spray on the snow. Check the signal every so often to make sure it is still visible.
♦ Once the blizzard has passes, if you must leave the car to go for help, leave a note in the car stating what your plan is. Make sure you take your disaster supplies with you.