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Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS)

Winter Storms & Extreme Cold

With winter weather, there are several aspects that you may want to be aware of and prepare for, such as: slippery road/sidewalks, cold temperatures, heavy snow and ice, frostbite, hypothermia, wind chill, and power loss. 

 
Winter emergency kit

Know the terms

  • Winter Weather Advisory - cold, ice, and snow are expected.
  • Winter Storm Watch -  severe weather is possible in the next 24 - 48 hours.
  • Winter Storm Warning - severe weather conditions have begun or will begin soon.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wind Chill - Windchill is the temperature it “feels like” when you are outside.

Before Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Make sure your emergency kit is stocked. In addition to the basic essentials, consider adding a portable cell phone charger, ice scraper, extra blanket, sand for traction, and jumper cables.
  • Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car.
  • Fully winterize your vehicle: Have a mechanic check antifreeze, brakes, heater and defroster, tires, and windshield wipers to ensure they are in good shape. Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • Make sure you have a cell phone with an emergency charging option (car, solar, hand crank, etc.) in case of a power failure.
  • People who depend on electricity to operate medical equipment should have alternate arrangements in place in case power is out for an extended period of time.
  • Plan to bring pets inside.
  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector.
  • Keep space heater safety in mind: Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Remember to keep all heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.

During Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Stay indoors and only travel if absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule and your route; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Walk carefully on snowy or icy walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. Use caution, take breaks, push the snow instead of lifting it when possible, and lift lighter loads.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.
  • Maintain ventilation if using kerosene heaters or a generator. Refill heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.

Cold-Related Illness

Frostbite is a serious condition that’s caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures.
  • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • numbness
  • If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.

Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.  Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature.

Warnings signs of hypothermia:
  • Adults: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech drowsiness
  • Infants:  bright red, cold skin, very low energy
If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

 

More Information


Alert Montgomery

Remember to listen to the radio and sign up for Alert Montgomery to stay informed and receive further instructions in the event of an emergency or inclement weather. 

 

 


Ready - Prepare, Plan, Stay Informed


For more information on winter storms visit Ready.gov

 

 

 

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