The Danger of Winter Storms and what to do if you're in one.
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Well it's the holidays and that puts right in the middle of winter for many places. I recently wrote a blog post on driving in inclement weather. This post is mostly on surviving a brutal storm. In the United States some states have declared state of emergencies for winter storms. Storms are usually no surprise to us as they are mentioned on news channels and radio stations before they occur yet we don't prepare and find ourselves stuck in the middle of the storm; either inside, outside, or in our vehicle. So what do we do when we didn't plan?We need to adapt and be resourceful. Hopefully this article will help.
Know the difference in the weather advisories.
Winter weather advisory- Winter weather is expected and to use caution. This means that snow is expected, roads may be slippery, use caution when driving as it may affect your travel plans. Basically it's going to snow.
Winter storm watch- Be prepared as there may be snow, sleet, or ice. Storm could produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain. If this occurs the storm could have significant impacts on your daily routine.
Winter storm warning- Snow, sleet, or Ice is expected. Action is needed. There is high confidence the a heavy snow storm. This storm will cause significant impacts.
Tidbit: Get the weather channel app on your phone it will give you weather information by alerts. Plus if you are travelling you can also check the weather in those locations.
The luxury of indoors.
Stay inside: When using heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc., use fire safeguards and properly ventilate. If you have a gas furnace, make sure it is not not blocked by a snowdrift as soon as it's safe to go out. If you have an upstairs gas furnace which vents out the roof, you may need to turn off the upstairs unit until the snow melts off your roof.
If your heat goes out:
-Close off unneeded rooms to avoid wasting heat.
-Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
-Close blinds or curtains to keep in some heat.Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Drinks lots of water and other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic drinks to prevent dehydration. Cold air is very dry.
-Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration and subsequent chill.
The non-luxury of outdoors.
Find Shelter: Try to stay dry and cover all exposed body parts.
When There Is No Shelter Nearby: Build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind. 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 unmelted snow will lower your body temperature.
Exercise: From time to time, move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating and to keep warm. Avoid overexertion such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow if you are not in good health. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
Tidbit: Invest in a satellite phone. I prefer the Garmin products but there are others on the market. This is necessary if you want to summons help to your location especially if you do not get cellular telephone service.
Tidbit: Go to this website for preparing an emergency supplies kit.
When vehicles aren't fun.
If you must drive in the storm take the following precautions:
-Slow down! Even if the roads just look wet they could still be slick. More than 5,000 fatalities occur on the roadways each year due to weather conditions.
-Make sure your vehicle is completely clear of ice or snow before starting the trip. Flying snow from cars causes accidents.
-Let someone know where you are going and what route you will take. If something happens, this person will know where to start a search.
-Don't leave the house without the following a fully charged mobile phone, car charger and an emergency supplies kit in your car.
-If you are driving and begin to skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas and turn your wheels in the direction you want the front of the car to go. If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump the brakes on an ABS equipped vehicle.
-If you are having trouble seeing due to weather conditions, pull over to the side of the road and stop your car until visibility improves. Turn off your lights and use your parking brake when stopped so that another car won't mistakenly follow your tail/brake lights and end up hitting you.
If your vehicle gets stuck during the storm:
(1) Stay in the vehicle!
-If you leave your vehicle, you will become disoriented quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
-Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
-While running the motor, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
-Clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning.
(2) Be visible to rescuers.
-Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine.
-Tie a bright colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.
-After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.
I hope this information helps. For more on winter storms you can follow the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.