Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region. Even areas that normally experience mild winters can be hit with a major snowstorm or extreme cold.
Winter storms can result in flooding, storm surge, closed highways, blocked roads, downed power lines and hypothermia.
Know the terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a winter storm hazard:
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.
Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
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.
Take protective measures before winter storms and extreme cold arrive. Include the following in your disaster supplies kit:
Rock salt to melt ice on walkways
Sand to improve traction
Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off.
For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
To winterize your car, attend to the following:
Battery and ignition system should be in top condition and battery terminals clean.
Ensure antifreeze levels are sufficient to avoid freezing.
Ensure the heater and defroster work properly.
Check and repair windshield wiper equipment; ensure proper washer fluid level.
Ensure the thermostat works properly.
Check lights and flashing hazard lights for serviceability.
Check for leaks and crimped pipes in the exhaust system; repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
Check brakes for wear and fluid levels.
Check oil for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
Consider snow tires, snow tires with studs, or chains.
Replace fuel and air filters. Keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
Dress for the Weather
Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
Wear a hat.
Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
During a Winter Storm
The following are guidelines for what you should do during a winter storm or under conditions of extreme cold:
Listen to your radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.
Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.