While the danger from winter weather varies across the country, and Southern California experiences very moderate winter conditions, nearly all Americans, regardless of where they live, are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some point in their lives. Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and freezing rain.
Before Winter Storms & Extreme Cold
To prepare for a winter storm you should do the following:
Ø Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
Ø Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
Ø Winterize Your Vehicle
Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
· Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
· Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
· Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
· Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
· Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
· Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
· Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
· Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
· Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
· Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
Update the emergency kits in your vehicles with:
· windshield scraper and small broom
· battery powered radio
· extra batteries
· snack food
· first aid kit with pocket knife
· warm clothes such as a sweater, jacket or other outerwear or blanket(s)
· booster cables
· emergency flares
Ø Winterize Your Home
· Winterize your home by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows.
· Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
· Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
· Only use heating sources approved for indoor use inside your home, garage or other structure.
· Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them.
Know the Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a winter storm hazard:
Ø Freezing Rain - Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
Ø Sleet - Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
Ø Winter Weather Advisory - Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.
Ø Winter Storm Watch - A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.
Ø Winter Storm Warning - A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
Ø 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.
Ø Frost/Freeze Warning - Below freezing temperatures are expected.
Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills
Ø Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
Ø Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
Ø If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
Ø Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.
During Winter Storms & Extreme Cold
Ø Stay indoors during the storm.
Ø Walk carefully on wet or icy walkways.
Ø 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.
Ø Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
Ø Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
Ø In severe storms, drive only if it is absolutely necessary.
Ø Dress for the Weather
· 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 gloves or mittens when necessary.
· Wear a hat. A hat will prevent loss of body heat.
· Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.