Preparation for Winter Weather
Most individuals are aware of winter weather conditions. We know how to dress, drive, be active outdoors and generally get through the often frigid cold . Nonetheless, deaths and injuries occur every winter because people fail to take precautions. Careless, overconfidence, ignorance and innocence's can lead to damage, injury or death from winter weather conditions. Advance preparation is the best thing people can do to avoid problems that may occur during the winter months.
Winter Weather Information
A wide range of weather conditions can occur during a winter storm, including snow, sleet, and ice accumulations, strong winds leading to blowing and drifting snow, and dangerously cold temperatures.
Winter Storms can affect a large area, even portions of multiple states, and can last for many days. Regions affected by a winter storm can be crippled for several days, with the effects felt for weeks. Travel becomes dangerous and even impossible.
Extreme cold often accompanies a winter storm or is left in its wake. The combination of cold temperatures and wind produces a wind chill, which is a cooling effect on exposed skin. Prolonged exposure to the cold can be dangerous and life-threatening, causing hypothermia or frostbite.
Know the Terms
- Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
- Sleet: 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. A Winter Storm Watch is issued when severe winter conditions are possible within the next few days. A Blizzard Watch may also be issued if blizzard conditions are expected.
- Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area. A Winter Storm Warning is issued when severe winter conditions, featuring a combination of winter weather types, are occurring or are imminent. Blizzard, Heavy Snow, Ice Storm, Lake Effect Snow, and Sleet warnings may also be issued if only one weather type is expected to occur.
- Blizzard Warning: 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.
- Frost/Freeze Warning: Below freezing temperatures are expected.
- Wind Chill watches and warnings may be issued when life-threatening wind chill values are expected. A strong wind combined with temperature slightly below freezing can have the same chilling effect as a temperature nearly 50 degrees lower in a calm atmosphere. The combined cooling power of the wind and temperature on exposed flesh is called the wind chill factor.
- An advisory is issued when conditions warrant increased public awareness or moderately hamper travel but are not severe enough to merit a warning.
Before a Winter Storm Strikes
- Monitor National Weather Service forecasts, statements, watches, and warnings for the latest information on a developing winter storm. National Weather Service websites and NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards provide a direct link to this information.
- Winterize your vehicle. Keep antifreeze fresh. Assure you have a strong car battery. Use snow tires.
- Keep a winter survival kit in your car.
- Winterize your home by installing storm windows, adequate insulation and caulking, and weather-stripping doors and windows
- Stock extra batteries for radios and flashlights
- Consider a safe alternate heat source, and keep a ready supply of fuel.
During a Winter Storm
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, local radio, or television, or monitor National Weather Service websites for the latest weather reports and emergency information.
- If you plan to be outside, dress in layered clothing and avoid over-exertion.
- Wear a hat; most body heat is lost through the top of the head.
- If your vehicle becomes stranded, stay with it until help arrives. Do not try to walk for help during a winter storm, as conditions may suddenly worsen with little advance warning.
- Most Minnesota home-heating systems depend on electrical power to operate the furnace, air circulation and thermostat controls. A winter power failure and resulting heat loss can damage homes and create difficult living conditions. Know what to do if your home suffers a power and heat failure.