Prepare! Don't Let a Winter Storm Take You by Surprise
Before the storm strikes, make sure your home, office and vehicles are stocked with the supplies you might need. Make sure farm animals and pets also have the essentials they will need during a winter storm. Know how to dress for varying degrees of cold weather.
Know Your Risk
WHAT: A winter storm occurs when there is significant precipitation and the temperature is low enough that precipitation forms as sleet or snow, or when rain turns to ice. A winter storm can range from freezing rain and ice, to moderate snowfall over a few hours, to a blizzard that lasts for several days, or be a combination of several winter weather conditions. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures.
WHEN: Winter storms can occur from early autumn to late spring depending on the region of the country.
WHERE: Winter storms and colder than normal temperatures can happen in every region of the country.
IMPACT: Extreme winter weather can immobilize an entire region. Ice and heavy snowfall can knock out heat, power, and communications services, sometimes for several days. Driving and walking can become extremely hazardous due to icy conditions, snowfall accumulation, low visibility, or extreme cold. People may need to stay at home or work without utilities or other services, until driving is safe. Pipes and water mains can break.
Prepare now in case a winter storm hits and you are home for several days without power and heat.
- Prepare by gathering emergency supplies, making a family plan, and discussing emergency notifications and expectations with your workplace and/or schools.
- Install battery-powered or battery back-up carbon monoxide detectors.
- If you have access to an OUTSIDE generator, have an electric cord long enough to keep the generator at least 20 feet from any door, window, or vent.
- Make specific plans for how you will avoid driving.
- Be alert to changing weather conditions using local alerts, radio, and other news sources for information and instructions.
At Home and Work
Your primary concerns at home or work during a winter storm are loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day. In either place, you should have available:
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information
- Extra food and water such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, and other food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.
- Extra prescription medicine
- Baby items such as diapers and formula
- First-aid supplies
Heating fuel: refuel before you are empty; fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm
Emergency heat source: fireplace, wood stove or space heater, properly ventilated to prevent a fire
Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm; test smoke alarms once a month to ensure they work properly
Extra pet food and warm shelter for pets
Review generator safety. You should never run a generator in an enclosed space
Make sure your carbon dioxide detector is working detector and that the outside vent is clear of leaves and debris. During or after the storm, make sure it is cleared of snow.
Home fires are common each winter when trying to stay warm. Review ways to keep your home and loved ones safe.
Each year, on average, more than 6,000 people are killed and more than 480,000 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 youâ€™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 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, batteries
- Blankets/sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Firstaid kit
- High-calorie, non-perishable food
- Extra clothing to keep dry
- Large empty can to use as emergency toilet, tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes
- 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
- Tow rope
- Battery booster cables
- Water container
- Candle and matches to provide light and in an emergency, lifesaving heat.
- Compass and road maps, don't depend on mobile devices with limited battery life
On the Farm, Pet Owners
- Move animals to sheltered areas or bring pets inside. Shelter belts, properly laid out and oriented, are better protection for cattle than confining shelters, such as sheds.
- Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas.
- Have water available. Most animals die from dehydration in winter storms.
- Make sure pets have plenty of food and water and a warm shelter.