Departments
Severe Winter Weather Safety

Winter Storms

Exhaustion or heart attacks caused by overexertion are the second most likely cause of winter storm related deaths.
· Fire during winter storms presents a great danger because water supplies may freeze and it may be difficult for fire fighting equipment to get to the fire.
· Ice storms can break power lines, causing widespread blackouts.
· Elderly people account for the largest percentage of hypothermia victims. Many older Americans literally “freeze to death” in their own homes after being exposed to dangerously cold indoor temperatures, or are asphyxiated because of improper use of fuels such as charcoal briquettes, which produce carbon monoxide.
· In March of 1993, the Blizzard of ’93 dumped record amounts of snow on an area that stretched from Alabama to New England. The storm left more than 170 people dead and caused hundreds of thousands of people to be without power for several days. Total damages were estimated at upward of 800 million dollars.

What is a winter storm?

A winter storm can range from moderate snow over a few hours to blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow that last several days. Some winter storms may be large enough to affect several states while others may affect only a single community. All winter storms are accompanied by low temperatures and blowing snow, which can severely reduce visibility. A severe winter storm is one that drops 4 or more inches of snow during a 12 hour period, or 6 or more inches during a 24 hour span. An ice storm occurs when freezing rain falls from clouds and freezes immediately on impact. All winter storms make driving and walking extremely hazardous. The aftermath of a winter storm can impact a community or region for days, weeks, and even months. Storm effects such as extreme cold, flooding, and snow accumulation can cause hazardous conditions and hidden problems for people in the affected area.

National Weather Service Announcements

Some of the winter weather announcements you may hear are: winter storm watch (a watch means that the possibility exists), winter storm warning (a warning means the danger is imminent), ice storm warning, heavy snow warning, blizzard warning, severe blizzard warning, and high wind warning. Please ensure that your weather radio has fresh batteries and you have a supply of batteries on hand.

Emergency Information

A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied by high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall, and extremely cold temperatures. People can become stranded on the road or trapped at home, without utilities or other services. The best protection against severe winter weather is to stay inside and to dress warmly by wearing loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing.

A serious danger during a winter storm is hypothermia- a condition brought on when the body temperature drops because of prolonged exposure to extreme cold. Hypothermia is not always fatal, but for those who survive there are likely to be lasting kidney, liver, and pancreatic problems.

Heavy snowfall and blizzards can trap motorists in their cars. Attempting to walk for help in a blizzard can be a deadly decision. Disorientation and confusion come very quickly in blowing snow. People trapped in a car during a blizzard do best to stay in the car and wait for help. It is a good idea to place a blanket in the car if you have to drive in the snowy weather. You may also consider placing some candy bars or crackers in the glove box as well as keeping a bottle of water in the car with you as you travel.

Should you loose power at your home, please refrain from using candles for light or warmth. There have been numerous fires started by a candle that was knocked over. Try to keep flashlights with plenty of batteries and a good supply of blankets on hand. 

Pay close attention to the weather forecasts and stock up on the provisions you and your family will need for several days should you have to remain at home during a winter storm. 

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.

Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.

If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance. Warm the person’s trunk first. Use your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure. Put person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket.

Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine in it (like tea or coffee) or alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.


If Indoors

Conserve fuel. Lower the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Close off unused rooms.

If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).

Listen to the radio or television to get the latest storm information.

If Outdoors

Dress warmly. Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers generate warmth when they touch each other.

Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. Also, take frequent breaks.

Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors. Try not to speak unless absolutely necessary.

Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.

Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.

REMEMBER TO HELP YOUR NEIGHBORS WHO MAY REQUIRE SPECIAL ASSISTANCE----INFANTS, ELDERLY PEOPLE, AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.


Winter Driving

Have a mechanic check your car.
Install good winter tires.
Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal.
Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
Plan long trips carefully.
If you must go out, use public transportation.
Dress warmly.
Carry food and water.
Carry a container of cat litter or sand to use for tire traction.
Display a trouble sign if stranded or broke down. (Tie a brightly colored flag on the antenna or raise the hood).
If stuck in snow or mud, occasionally run the engine to keep warm. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
Tap your brake as you approach intersections.
Drive as conditions permit. Driving slowly is usually safer than driving faster on ice and in snow.
Make sure than all of your windows are cleaned and you can see through them (include cleaning your side mirrors as well).
Keep your mobile phone charged and with you.
If you don’t have a mobile phone, keep at least three (3) envelopes in your glove box, each with .35 cents and a telephone number of someone you know can be contacted. Slide the envelope through a slightly rolled down car window to someone who may stop and want to help you. This will prevent having to open your car door to a stranger.