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Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

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
Include the following in your disaster supplies kit:

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.

Winter storm occurences by state

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:

Dress for the Weather

Person wearing long coat, gloves and hat walking in the snow

During a Winter Storm
The following are guidelines for what you should do during a winter storm or under conditions of extreme cold:

Image of freezing ice on a park bench

If a blizzard traps you in the car, keep these guidelines in mind:

After a Winter Storm
Follow the instructions for recovering from a disaster in Part 5.

For More Information

If you require more information about any of these topics, the following are resources that may be helpful.

National Weather Service
Winter Storms…The Deceptive Killers. Brochure packed with useful information including winter storm facts, how to detect frostbite and hypothermia, what to do in a winter storm, and how to be prepared.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety. An extensive document providing information about planning ahead for cold weather, safety both indoors and outdoors in cold weather, and cold weather health conditions.

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Last Modified: Friday, 30-May-2008 10:45:27 EDT