A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied by high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall and cold temperatures.
Every year, dozens of people in this country die due to exposure to cold. Hypothermia and frostbite can also lead to the loss of fingers and toes, or cause permanent damage to internal organs. Careful preparations can help you avoid these dangers.
Before a winter storm strikes
Have the following supplies on hand in case you lose power or can’t get out to restock supplies:
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Extra medicine and baby items, if needed
- Extra food and water
- NOAA Weather Radio
- First aid supplies
- Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm
- Food, water and shelter for pets
- Emergency heat source (fireplace, wood stove or space heater.) Use properly to avoid a fire or carbon monoxide dangers
Winter storm survival kit
If you must get out on the road, keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Avod traveling alone, and let someone know your route and timetable. Carry a winter storm survival kit in your vehicle:
- Mobile phone, charger and batteries
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit
- High-calorie, non-perishable food
- Sand or cat litter for traction
- Windshield scraper and brush
- Tool kit
- Tow rope
- Battery booster cables
- Compass and road maps
What to do when you’re…
- Find shelter. If there is no shelter, build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from wind.
- Try to stay dry.
- Cover all exposed body parts.
- Build a fire for heat and to attract attention. place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
- Melt snow for drinking water. Eating frozen snow will lower your body temperature.
In a vehicle
- Stay in your vehicle. If you try to leave it you will quickly become disoriented in wind-driven snow and cold.
- Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
- Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
- Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine to make yourself visible to rescuers.
- Tie a colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna.
- From time to time, move your arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating and keep warm.
- Stay indoors.
- When using heat sources such as fireplaces, wood stoves or space heaters, use proper safety precautions.
- Close off unused rooms to preserve heat.
- Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
- Cover windows at night.
- Be sure to eat and drink enough. Food provides energy for your body to keep warm.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.
Dress appropriately for winter weather
- Wear loose, lightweight layers of warm clothing.
- Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
- Wear a hat — half of your body’s heat loss can be from the head.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
- Mittens, snug at the wrist, will protect your hands better than gloves.
- Try to stay dry.