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
- "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
- Know safe routes from home, work and school to high
- Know how to contact other household members through a common out-of-state
contact in the event you and have to evacuate and become separated.
- 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
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
- 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 feet.
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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 rescue planes.
- 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
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
- Do not turn electricity back on if you smell gas or
if the electric system has been flooded.
- Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
- Do not handle electric equipment in wet areas.
- Use flashlights, not lanterns, candles or matches, to check buildings
containing natural gas, propane, or gasoline.
- Follow directions from local officials regarding the
safety of drinking water.
- Clean and disinfect everything that was touched by
flood waters and throw out any such foodstuffs.
- If you want to help other victims, give cash donations
to the appropriate relief agencies to buy what the victims need. Donated
goods such as used clothing, unlabeled and unsorted by size, are usually
more of a logistical problem than a help. If particular items are needed,
there will be public announcements and instructions concerning these.
- Don't go to the disaster scene on your own to volunteer.
If you are already a volunteer, you will know where you are to report.
If additional volunteers are needed for labor-intensive work like sandbagging,
public announcements will be made.