Timely preparation, including structural and non-structural mitigation
measures to avoid the impacts of severe winter weather, can avert
heavy personal, business and government expenditures. Experts agree
that the following measures can be effective in dealing with the
challenges of severe winter weather:
BEFORE SEVERE WEATHER ARRIVES
- Store drinking water, first aid kit, canned/no-cook food, non-electric
can opener, radio, flashlight and extra batteries where you can
get them easily, even in the dark.
- Keep cars and other vehicles fueled and in good repair, with
a winter emergency kit in each.
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio to monitor severe weather.
- Know how the public is warned (siren, radio, TV, etc.) and the
warning terms for each kind of disaster in your community; e.g.:
- "winter storm watch" --- Be alert, a storm is likely
- "winter storm warning" --- Take action, the storm is in
or entering the area
- "blizzard warning" --- Snow and strong winds combined will
produce blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts,
and life-threatening wind chill--seek refuge immediately!
- "winter weather advisory" --- Winter weather conditions
are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be
hazardous, especially to motorists
- "frost/freeze warning" --- Below freezing temperatures are
expected and may cause damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees
- "flash flood or flood watch" --- Be alert to signs of flash
flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice
- "flash flood warning" --- A flash flood is imminent--act
quickly to save yourself because you may have only seconds
- "flood warning" --- Flooding has been reported or is imminent--take
necessary precautions at once
- Know safe routes from home, work and school to high ground.
- Know how to contact other household members through a common
out-of-state contact in the event you and have to evacuate and
- Know how to turn off gas, electric power and water before evacuating.
- Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled
friends, neighbors or employees.
- Keep plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, sandbags and hand tools
on hand and accessible.
- Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that
may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment.
Install storm shutters, doors and windows; clear rain gutters;
repair roof leaks; and check the structural ability of the roof
to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow--or
water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.
- If you think you might want to volunteer in case of a disaster,
now is the time to let voluntary organizations or the emergency
services office know--beforehand.
DURING ANY STORM OR EMERGENCY
- Monitor your NOAA Weather Radio or keep a local radio and/or
TV station on for information and emergency instructions.
- Have your emergency survival kit ready to go if told to evacuate.
- If you go outside for any reason, dress for the season and expected
For cold weather, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight,
warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments
should be tightly woven and water-repellent. Mittens are warmer
than gloves. Wear a hat. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect
your lungs from extremely cold air. Wear sturdy, waterproof boots
in snow or flooding conditions.
- If advised to evacuate, tell others where you are going, turn
off utilities if told to, then leave immediately, following routes
designated by local officials.
DURING A FLOOD
- Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding.
- Do not try to walk across running water more than 6 inches deep;
even 6 inches of rapidly running water can sweep you off your
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If your car stalls, abandon
it immediately--if you can--and seek higher ground.
DURING A WINTER STORM
- Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your house cooler than
normal. Temporarily shut off heat to less-used rooms.
- If using kerosene heaters, maintain ventilation to avoid build-up
of toxic fumes. Keep heaters at least three feet from flammable
objects. Refuel kerosene heaters outside.
- Avoid travel if possible. If you must travel, do so during daylight.
Don't travel alone. Stay on main roads, and keep others informed
of your schedule.
IF A BLIZZARD trAPS YOU IN YOUR CAR
- Pull off the road, set hazard lights to flashing, and hang a
distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in your
vehicle; rescuers are most likely to find you there.
- Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater about ten minutes
each hour to keep warm, cracking a downwind window slightly to
prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Exercise to maintain body heat
but don't overexert. Huddle with other passengers and use your
coat for a blanket.
- In extreme cold use road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers
or extra clothing for covering--anything to provide additional
insulation and warmth.
- Turn on the inside dome light so rescue teams can see you at
night, but be careful not to run the battery down. In remote areas,
spread a large cloth over the snow to attract the attention of
- Do not set out on foot unless you see a building close by where
you know you can take shelter.
- Once the blizzard is over, you may need to leave the car and
proceed on foot. Follow the road if possible. If you need to walk
across open country, use distant points as landmarks to help maintain
your sense of direction.
AFTER THE STORM
- Report downed power lines and broken gas lines immediately.
- After blizzards, heavy snows or extreme cold, check to see that
no physical damage has occurred and that water pipes are functioning.
If there are no other problems, wait for streets and roads to
be opened before you attempt to drive anywhere.
- Check on neighbors, especially any who might need help.
- Beware of overexertion and exhaustion. Shoveling snow in extreme
cold causes many heart attacks. Set your priorities and pace yourself
after any disaster that leaves you with a mess to clean up. The
natural tendency is to do too much too soon.
RETURNING TO YOUR HOME AFTER A FLOOD