The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year but also brings with it cold temperatures, snow, sleet and hail. Taking certain precautions can help ensure a safe holiday season without the added stress of dealing with extreme weather.
It is important to be familiar with terms that will help you prepare for potential severe weather:
Winter Weather Advisory – Weather conditions that are expected to cause significant inconveniences but not be life-threatening.
- Winter Storm Watch – A possible storm in your area in which severe conditions, such as heavy snow and ice, may affect you though circumstances remain uncertain. Winter Storm Watches are issued 12-36 hours before an impending storm.
- Winter Storm Warning – A storm that is occurring or will soon occur in a specific area.
- Blizzard Warning – A storm with sustained winds or gusts of >35 mph, and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility considerably) expected to last at least 3 hours or more.
- Wind Chill Warning – Dangerously cold wind chills that are impending or already occurring. It is extremely important to avoid going outside with exposed skin, as you could become hypothermic or have lasting damage within 30 minutes.
- Wind Chill Watch – Dangerously cold wind chills that are possible, though not guaranteed. It is just as important to prepare during this this time as it is during a Wind Chill Warning, because conditions can rapidly change.
- Hard Freeze Warning – When temperatures are expected to drop below 28°F for an extended period of time, which can kill many types of crops and other plants.
Preparing for Winter Weather
It is of utmost importance to ensure your home, office and vehicles are prepared and stocked with supplies before a storm. You should also take preparedness steps for pets and/or farm animals. If you are caught in a Winter Storm Warning, it is extremely important to find shelter as soon as possible.
Winter Storm Tips
1. Stay off the roads as much as possible. If you have to drive, drive slowly. Black ice can be difficult to see and can cause severe crashes.
2. Stay indoors and dress warmly
3. Prepare for power outages. Now is the time to invest in a generator for your home if you do not already have one. If you use a generator, use them outside only and away from the windows.
4. Keep up to date on emergency alerts. The National Weather Service has a Winter Prediction Tool that is consistently regarding storm forecasts. Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides emergency alerts.
5. Check on your neighbors. If you must go outside, check for signs of hypothermia and frostbite. This could include unresponsiveness, blue coloring, and extreme shivering.
6. Have an Emergency Preparedness Toolkit on hand, for both your car and your home – this could include batteries, extra food and water, extra prescriptions, heating fuel, and extra food for pets.
7. Make sure your pets and/or farm animals have warm shelter – they feel the cold just as much as we do!
8. Not all winter weather involves precipitation – extreme cold is just as dangerous as a blizzard. If you notice signs of hypothermia or frostbite, it is important to build heat back up slowly by soaking affected areas in warm, not hot, water.
Every year, more than 5,000 people are killed and more than 418,000 are injured due to weather-related vehicle crashes. If you need to drive in snow or cold conditions, TAKE IT SLOW IN THE SNOW. Black ice can be difficult to see. If the temperature is near freezing, drive like you're on ice--you may be!
Before you leave the house, especially before a longer trip in winter, make sure all fluid levels are full and ensure that the lights, heater and windshield wipers are in proper condition. Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Avoid traveling alone. Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes. Then call 511 for the latest traffic and road incidents, including construction and weather conditions and restrictions. Every state offers this Department of Transportation service. Call before you leave; it might change your plans!
Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins. Carry a Winter Storm Survival Kit that includes the following:
- Mobile phone, charger
- Blankets/sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- High-calorie, non-perishable food
- Extra clothing to keep dry
- Large empty can to use as emergency toilet, tissues, toilet paper and paper towels
- Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
- Sack of sand or cat litter for traction
- Windshield scraper and brush
- Tool kit
- Battery booster cables
- Water container
- Candle and matches to provide light and in an emergency, lifesaving heat.
- Compass and road maps