Winter Weather Safety
by Phil Hysell, Warning Coordination Meteorologist
Each year, dozens of Americans die due to exposure to cold. Add to that number, vehicle accidents and fatalities, fires due to dangerous use of heaters and other winter weather fatalities and you have a significant threat. A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied by high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snow and cold temperatures. People can become trapped at home or in a car, without utilities or other assistance. The aftermath of a winter storm can have an impact on a community or region for days, weeks or even months.
To help prepare for the upcoming winter weather season, The National Weather Service would like to offer you some tips to protect you and your family from this potentially life-threatening hazard.
- Be prepared to survive on your own for at least three days. Assemble a disaster supply kit. Be sure to include winter specific items including rock salt to melt ice on walkways, sand to improve traction, and snow shovels. Keep a stock of non-perishable food and extra drinking water.
- Prepare for isolation in your home. Maintain several days supply of medicine, water, and food that needs no refrigeration. Have sufficient heating fuel, regular fuel sources may be cut off. Have emergency heating equipment and fuel (a gas fireplace or wood burning stove or fireplace) so you can keep at least one room in your home livable. Be sure the room is well ventilated. If a thermostat controls your furnace and your electricity is cut off by a storm, you will need emergency heat.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand and know how to use them
- Never burn charcoal indoors.
- Have your vehicle(s) winterized before the winter storm season. Keeping your vehicle in good condition will decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather. Have a mechanic check your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, and oil. Install good winter tires.
- Put together a separate disaster supply kit for the trunk of each vehicle used by members of your household. This kit should include: Blankets; rain gear and extra sets of dry clothing; plastic bags for sanitation; several bottles of water; high energy ‘munchies’; a small shovel; jumper cables; a first aid kit; a flash light with extra batteries; cell phone; and a brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna.
- In your home and car have a battery powered NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio.
- Know the difference between a Winter Storm Watch, Warning, and Advisory. A watch means winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36-48 hours. A warning means life-threatening severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Act now! An advisory means winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If you are cautious, these situations should not be life threatening.
- Don’t forget about your pets! Make sure they have food, water and shelter.