Winter Storms: Staying Safe and Warm
Learn what to do to keep safe before, during, and after a winter storm.
Extreme winter weather can immobilize an entire region. Even areas that normally experience mild winters can suddenly be hit with heavy snowfall or intense cold. Winter storms can result in closed streets and highways, power outages, and flooding. Take action now to ensure the safety and comfort of your family in the event of extreme winter weather.
Before a storm
- Have snow-removal equipment on hand, as well as rock salt to melt ice and sand to improve traction.
- Regular fuel sources may be cut off, so make sure an alternative is available to heat your home. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone knows how to use them. Fires pose an additional risk when alternate heating sources are in use.
- Locate your main water supply and valves; make sure you know how to shut them off in case a pipe bursts.
- Repair roof leaks and keep gutters clear. Trim any tree branches that could fall during a storm.
- Winterize by caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows, sealing the attic area, and installing storm windows. This will help to keep your family safe and comfortable during a storm.
During a storm
- Listen to your radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.
- Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- To conserve fuel, keep your residence cooler than normal or temporarily close off heat to some rooms.
- Stay dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent the loss of body heat.
- Watch for signs of frostbite; these include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers and toes. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- Drive only when necessary. If you must drive, travel on main roads during daylight hours. Keep others informed of your whereabouts.
After a storm
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack, a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
- Help neighbors who may require special assistance including infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
- If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation and open all faucets; pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold. Do not try to thaw them with a blow torch or other open flame.
- Follow forecasts and be prepared when venturing outside. Major winter storms are often followed by extremely cold conditions.
- A little forethought and attention to detail will help to ensure that you and your family stay warm, dry, and safe this winter, no matter what the weather is like outside.