Winter Weather Awareness

Terms To Know

Winter Storm Watch
Severe winter weather conditions MAY affect your area.

Winter Storm Warning

Severe winter weather conditions WILL affect your area.

Blizzard Warning
Considerable falling and/or blowing snow with sustained wind speeds of at least 35 MPH will affect your area.

Travelers Advisory

Winter conditions make driving inadvisable for your area. The second line of protection is to know what to do to protect yourself, your home and most importantly, your family.


Travel only if absolutely necessary. Use public transportation if possible. If you must use your car, follow these tips:
  • Keep your car in good working order; battery, tires, antifreeze, windshield wipers and fluid.
  • Maintain a full tank of gas. Add dry gas.
  • Do not travel alone if at all possible. Keep radio on for weather and emergency information.
  • Have an emergency winter storm kit in the car that includes the following:
  • Container of sand or kitty litter and shovel.
  • Windshield scraper and de-icer.
  • Tow line or rope.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries and flares.
  • Cellular phone or emergency radio.
  • Blanket, gloves, socks, hat and overshoes.
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag.
  • First aid kit with matches.
  • Pocket knife.
  • Several blankets or sleeping bag.
  • Battery booster cables.
  • High energy bars.
If a Blizzard Traps You In Your Vehicle
  • Don’t panic, Stay in the car.
  • Do not leave the car to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You may become disoriented and lost in the blowing and drifting snow. Being lost in open country during a blizzard is extremely dangerous. You are more likely to be found in your car and will at least be sheltered there.
  • Display a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raise the car hood.
  • Occasionally run the engine for about ten minutes to keep warm.
  • Run the heater when the car is running.
  • Turn on the car's dome light when the car is running.
  • Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Exercise lightly by clapping hands and moving arms and legs occasionally. Avoid staying in one position too long.
  • Huddle together.
  • Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation.
  • Avoid over exertion. 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.

Isolation in Your Home

A severe winter storm can isolate you for several days. The following advice can help you:
  • Maintain an adequate supply of heating fuel.
  • Store an emergency supply of food that does not require refrigeration or cooking.
  • Have a portable radio and flashlight on-hand with fresh batteries. Keep tuned to weather and emergency information stations.
  • Be prepared to be without electricity and conventional heat and cooking.
  • CAUTION: Know how to operate emergency heating and lighting equipment safely. USE ONLY SAFETY LISTED EQUIPMENT!
  • Check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to assure they are in good working condition.
If You Must Go Outside
Observe the following safety measures:
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on the heart. If you add to this the strain of heavy physical activity such as shoveling snow, pushing an automobile or even walking too fast or too far, you risk damaging your body.
  • Dress warmly in loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat. Protect your face and cover your mouth to protect your lungs from very cold air. Wear mittens instead of gloves -- they allow your fingers to move freely in contact with one another and will keep your hands much warmer.
  • Watch for frostbite and other symptoms of cold-weather exposure. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, tip of nose, ear lobes. If such symptoms are detected, get medical attention immediately. Do not rub with snow or ice -- this does not help the condition and, in fact, will make it worse. The best treatment for frostbite is the rewarming of the affected tissue, as described above in the section on treatment for cold weather exposure.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes the body to lose its heat more rapidly -- even though one may feel warmer after drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Keep yourself and your clothes dry. Change wet socks and all other wet clothing as quickly as possible to prevent loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • If paralyzed persons or infants must go outside in severe weather, they should be checked frequently for signs of frostbite.

Signs and Treatment of Cold Weather Exposure

When the body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it, a condition called hypothermia begins to develop. The symptoms become very apparent, and include:
  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Vague, slow, slurred speech
  • Memory lapses; incoherence
  • Immobile, fumbling hands
  • Frequent stumbling; lurching gait
  • Drowsiness
  • Apparent exhaustion; inability to get up after a rest.
If a person shows any signs of overexposure to cold or wet and windy weather, take the following measures -- even if the person claims to be in no difficulty. Often the person will not realize the seriousness of the situation.
  • Get the person into dry clothing and into a warm bed or sleeping bag with a "hot" water bottle (which should actually be only warm to the touch, not hot), warm towels, heating pad, or some other such heat source.
  • Concentrate heat on the trunk of the body first -- that is, the shoulders, chest and stomach.
  • Keep the head low and the feet up to get warm blood circulating to the head.
  • Give the person warm drinks.
  • Never give the person alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers or pain relievers. They only slow down body processes even more.
  • Keep the person quiet. Do not jostle, massage or rub.
  • If symptoms are extreme, call for professional medical assistance immediately.