Compiled by Dick Oakes
Winter Storms - General
Severe winter weather has increased the number of deaths and injuries dramatically in the last few years. To protect yourself and your family against the hazards of winter storms -- blizzards, heavy snows, freezing rain, or sleet -- you should follow these safety tips.
- Keep posted on weather conditions -- use your radio and television to keep informed of current weather conditions and forecasts in your area.
- Even a few hours' warning of a storm may enable you to avoid being caught in it, or at least be better prepared to cope with it.
- You should also understand the terms commonly used in weather forecasts:
- A blizzard is the most dangerous of all winter storms. It combines cold air, heavy snow, and strong winds that blow the snow about and may reduce visibility to only a few yards.
- A blizzard warning is issued when the Weather Service expects considerable snow and winds of 35 miles per hour or more.
- A severe blizzard warning means that a very heavy snowfall is expected, with winds of at least 45 miles per hour and temperatures of 10° farenheit or lower.
- A winter storm warning is issued when heavy snow (expected snowfall of 4 inches or more in a 12-hour period, or 6 inches or more in a 24-hour period), sleet, or freezing rain is forecast to occur separately or in combination.
- A winter storm watch indicates there is threat of severe winter weather in a particular area.
- Freezing rain or freezing drizzle is forecast when expected rain is likely to freeze as soon as it strikes the ground, putting a coating of ice on roads and walkways.
- If a substantial layer of ice is expected to accumulate from the freezing rain, a winter storm warning is issued.
- Sleet is small particals of ice, usueally mixed with rain. If enough sleet accumulates on the ground, it will make the roads slippery.
- Travelers' advisories are issued when ice and snow are expected to hinder travel but not seriously enough to require warnings.
Before a Storm
- Be prepared for isolation at home. If you live in a rural area, make sure you can survive at home for a week or two in case a storm isolates you and it is imposssible for you to leave.
- Arrange for emergency heat supply in case of power failure -- use it sparingly as your regular supplies may be curtailed by storm conditions.
- If necessary, conserve fuel by keeping the house cooler than usual, or by "closing off" some rooms temporarily.
- Have available some kind of emergency heating equipment and fuel so you could keep at least one room of your house warm enough to be livable. This could be a camp stove with fuel, or a supply of wood or coal if you have a fireplace.
- If your furnace is controlled by a thermostat and your electricity is cut off by a storm, the furnace probably would not operate and you would need emergency heat.
- Stock an emergency supply of food and water as well as emergency cooking equipment, such as a camp stove. Some of this food should not require refrigeration or cooking.
- Make sure you have a battery-powered radio and extra batteries on hand so that if your electric power is cut off you could still hear weather forecasts, information, and advice broadcast by local authorities.
- Keep on hand flashlights or lanterns and batteries to operate them.
- Keep on hand the simple tools and equipment needed to fight a fire.
- Be certain that all family members know how to take precautions to prevent fire at such time, when the help of the fire department may not be available.
- Prepare a winter survival kit in your vehicle and include these items:
- Sleeping bags.
- High-energy foods, such as candy, nuts, raisins, trail mix.
- First aid kit.
- Flashlights and extra batteries.
- Extra clothing.
- Candles and matches.
- Jumper cables.
- Tow chain.
- Windshield scraper.
- Sack of sand.
- Paper and pencils or pens to leave a note in case you evacuate your vehicle.
Dress for the Season
- If you spend much time outdoors, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than a single layer of thick clothing.
- Mittens are warmer than gloves.
- Use a hood to protect your head and face and cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the extremely cold air.
If You are In a Vehicle
- If you must travel, use public transportation if possible.
- Travel only if necessary and avoid all unnecessary trips.
- Travel by daylight and use major highways if you can.
- Keep your car radio turned on for weather information and advice.
- Drive with all possible caution.
- Don't try to save time by traveling faster than road and weather conditions permit.
- Don't be daring or foolhardy. Rather than risk being stalled, lost, or isolated, stop, turn back, or seek help if conditions threaten to test your ability or endurance.
- If you are cught in a blizzard, seek refuge immediately.
- Make sure your car is in good condition, properly serviced, and equipped with chains or snow tires.
- Keep your vehicle fuel tank above half full.
- If you get stranded, stay in your vehicle and keep it ventilated.
- Bundle up.
- Your vehicle will help you keep warm, visible, and alive, if you get trapped in a winter storm.
- Run the motor 10 minutes every hour for heat, but be sure the tailpipe outlet is clear of obstructing snow while running the engine.
- If you run the engine to keep warm, remember to open a window slightly to provide ventilation and protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- A lighted candle will help keep you from freezing, but remember to have a window open slightly for ventilation.
- If you are on a well-traveled road, indicate you are in trouble -- flash your directional lights, raise the hood of your car, or hang a cloth (red preferably) from the radio aerial or car window, then stay in your car and wait for help to arrive.
- Be visible to rescuers. Turn on the interior dome light at night when running the vehicle engine.
- Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to increase body warmth.
- Have emergency "winter storm supplies" in the car such as:
- Container of sand.
- Windshield scraper.
- Tow chain or rope.
- Mittens or gloves.
- Extra woolen socks.
- Winter headgear to cover your head and face.
- Keep calm if you get into trouble.
- If your car breaks down during a storm, or if you become stalled or lost, don't panic.
- Think the problem through, decide the safest and best thing to do, and then do it slowly and carefully.
- Wherever you are, if there is no house or other source of help in sight, do not leave your car to search for assistance; you may become confused and get lost.
- Stay inside.
- If using alternative heat, use fire safeguards and proper ventilation.
- Close off uneeded rooms.
- Stuff towels in the cracks under doors.
- Eat to provide energy and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.
If You are Outside in Open Country
- Find shelter.
- Try to stay dry.
- Cover all exposed parts of the body.
- If there is no shelter, prepare a lean-to, wind-break, or snow cave for protection from the wind.
- Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
- Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
- Do NOT eat snow! It will lower body temperature. Melt it first.
During and After the Storm
- Dress warmly by wearing multiple layers of protective, loose-fitting clothing, scarves, mittens, and hoods.
- Cover your mouth and nose to protect your lungs from extremely cold air.
- Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks are a major cause of death during and after winter storms. Shoveling snow or freeing stuck vehicles can be extremely hard work. Don't overdo it!
- Beware of the chill factor, if winds are present.
- Be prepared for isolation at home. Make sure you can survive for a week or two in case a storm isolates you and makes it impossible for you to leave.