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Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

How to Identify a Winter Storm

  • Freezing Rain: Rain freezes when hitting ground, icing surfaces, trees, and power lines
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground
  • Winter Storm Watch: A significant winter storm could occur in your area
  • Winter Storm Warning: A significant winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area
  • Blizzard Warning: A significant, sustained storm with high winds and heavy snow is occurring or will soon occur in you area

How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

  • See Get A Kit and Make A Plan for general information
  • Add to your kit:
    • Rock salt to melt ice on walkways
    • Sand to improve traction while driving
    • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment
    • Sufficient heating fuel, such as wood for a fireplace, in case of power outage
  • Ensure walls and attic are properly insulated; install storm windows or cover windows with plastic
  • Ensure your car is in good condition and has a sufficient amount of antifreeze
  • Consider purchasing snow tires or tires with chains and studs

How to Respond to a Winter Storm

  • Wear several layers of warm clothing with an outer layer that is tightly woven and water repellent; also wear a hat, mittens, scarves, and boots
  • Know the symptoms of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering; memory loss and disorientation; incoherence and slurred speech; drowsiness and apparent exhaustion
    • Get medical help as soon as possible
    • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter
    • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it
    • Warm the center of the body firstchest, neck, head, and groinusing an electric blanket, if available
    • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages; do not try to give beverages to an unconcious person
    • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck
  • Know the symptoms of frostbite: loss of feeling; white or pale appearance in extremeties (fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose)
    • Get medical help as soon as possible
    • Get into a warm room
    • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toesthis increases the damage
    • Immerse the affected area in warmnot hotwater or warm the affected area using body heat
    • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all; this can cause more damage
    • Dont use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming
  • If you are trapped in a car during a blizzard:
    • Pull off the highway if possible
    • Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window and remain in vehicle unless you can walk to a nearby building
    • Run the engine and heater ten minutes every hour to keep warm; while the engine is running, open a window slightly for ventilation
    • Maintain body heat by moving around
    • Take turns sleeping so someone is awake to look for rescue crews

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