Know the difference between a watch, warning, and advisory.
Preparing your home
According to the National Weather Service, 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, 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 monthly to ensure they work properly
- Extra pet food and warm shelter for pets
- Review generator safety: Never run a generator in an enclosed space
- Make sure your carbon monoxide detector is working correctly 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.
Preparing your vehicle
The National Weather Service advises before leaving 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 are 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.
Carry a Winter Storm Survival Kit that includes the following:
- Mobile phone, charger, batteries
- Blankets/sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- High-calorie, non-perishable food
- Extra clothing to keep dry
- Large empty can to use as emergency toilet, tissues, toilet paper and paper towels
- 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.
More storm preparedness tips.
Here are some ways to stay safe during a winter storm:
- Find Shelter: Try to stay dry and cover all exposed body parts.
- When There Is No Shelter Nearby:Build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind. Build a fire for heat and to attract attention. Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
- Melt Snow for Drinking Water: Eating unmelted snow will lower your body temperature.
- Exercise: From time to time, move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating and to keep warm. Avoid overexertion such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow if you are not in good health. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
- Stay Inside: When using heat from a fire place, wood stove, space heater, etc., use fire safeguards and properly ventilate. If you have a gas furnace, make sure it is not not blocked by a snowdrift as soon as it's safe to go out. If you have an upstairs gas furnace which vents out the roof, you may need to turn off the upstairs unit until the snow melts off your roof.
If Your Heat Goes Out:
- Close off unneeded rooms to avoid wasting heat.
- Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
- Close blinds or curtains to keep in some heat.
- Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Drinks lots of water and other non-caffeinated, non-alcholohic drinks to prevent dehydration. Cold air is very dry.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration and subsequent chill.
Staying safe in vehicles
If you must drive during a storm, take the following precautions:
- Slow down! Even if the roads just look wet they could still be slick. More than 6,000 fatalities occur on the roadways each year due to weather conditions.
- Make sure your vehicle is completely clear of ice or snow before starting the trip. Flying snow from cars causes accidents.
- Let someone know where you are going and what route you will take. If something happens, this person will know where to start a search.
- Don't leave the house without the following a fully charged mobile phone and car charger and a emergency supplies kit in your car.
- If you are driving and begin to skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas and turn your wheels in the direction you want the front of the car to go. If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump the brakes on an ABS equipped vehicle.
- If you are having trouble seeing due to weather conditions, pull over to the side of the road and stop your car until visibility improves. Turn off your lights and use your parking break when stopped so that another car won't mistakenly follow your tail/brake lights and end up hitting you.
If your car gets stuck during a storm:
- Stay in the vehicle!
- If you leave your vehicle, you will become disoriented quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
- Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
- While running the motor, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning.
- Be visible to rescuers.
- Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine.
- Tie a bright colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.
- After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.