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Prepare for Winter Weather

Prepare Now!

Get Ready for Winter Weather!

A winter storm in New England can range from a moderate snowfall over a few hours to a Nor'easter, bringing blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow that lasts several days. People can become stranded in their automobiles or trapped at home, without utilities or other services. The aftermath of a winter storm can have an impact on a community or the entire region for days, weeks or even months. Storm effects, in New England, include large snow accumulation, extremely cold temperatures, heavy, wet snow or icing on trees and powerlines, roof collapses, coastal flooding and beach erosion. Winter storms are also deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the actual storm. The major causes are automobile or other transportation accidents, exhaustion and heart attacks caused by overexertion, 'freezing to death' and asphyxiation from improper heating sources. House fires occur more frequently in the winter due to lack of proper safety precautions when using alternate heating sources, like unattended fires and space heaters. As with most potential disasters: preparedness, monitoring the Media and common sense can minimize the danger to you and your family.

Those who already have an All-Hazard Emergency Supply Kit, as RIEMA continues to suggest, should be in fine shape already.

Before a Winter Storm Threatens

  • Know the terms used by weather forecasters:
    • 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.
  • Know the threats posed by winter weather:
    • Frostbite - Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.
    • Hypothermia - A condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.
      • If frostbite or hypothermia are suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance.
      • Warm the person's trunk first. Use your own body heat to help.
      • Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure.
      • Put person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket.
      • Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine in it (like coffee or tea) or alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.
    • Black Ice - Even if precipitation doesn't fall, roads can turn into ice rinks. This condition, known as black ice, fools drivers into thinking water is on the road. What they don't realize is that condensation, such as dew, freezes when temperatures reach 32 degrees or below, forming an extra-thin layer of ice. This shiny ice surface is one of the most dangerous road conditions.
      • Black ice is likely to form first under bridges and overpasses, in shady spots and at intersections.
      • Driving conservatively, keeping plenty of space between cars and allowing for longer stopping distances will help keep you driving straight on slick roads.
    • Flying Snow - Flying snow results from the snow left on top of trucks and cars. When snow is warmed by the vehicle, it will begin to melt. Wind and motion cause sections to break off and obscure the vision of other vehicles. The snow packs also can fall on the road, melt, and later turn into black ice.
      • Drive cautiously, even if a storm has moved on.
      • And remember to keep your distance from vehicles in front of you.
  • Everyone should have supplies which would prepared them to survive on their own for at least three days. There should be some non-perishable food, bottled water, flashlights and extra batteries around the house, along with a portable radio or NOAA Weather Radio in case of power outages or other emergencies caused by a winter storm.
  • Additional items that should be included on your Winter Weather Supply List are a freshly-stocked first-aid kit, essential prescription medicines, non-perishable foods (those that require no refrigeration such as canned goods, dried fruits and nuts), a non-electric can opener, water (one gallon per person, per day), baby-care items, extra blankets, sleeping bags and a fire extinguisher.
  • Have sufficient heating fuel, as regular sources may be cut off. Have emergency heating equipment and fuel (a gas fireplace, wood burning stove or fireplace) so you can keep at least one room livable. Be sure the room is well ventilated.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to keep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide insulation.
  • To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
  • Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.
  • Know how to shut off water valves.
  • If pipes freeze, remove insulation, completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they are most exposed to the cold.  A hand-held hair dryer, used with caution, also works well.
  • Suggested items for a Winter Emergency Car Kit include a flashlight with extra batteries, a basic first-aid kit, necessary medications, a pocket knife, booster cables, a blanket or a sleeping bag, extra clothes (including rain gear, mittens and socks), non-perishable foods, a non-electric can opener, sand for generating vehicle traction, tire chains or traction mats, a basic tool kit (pliers, wrench, screwdriver), a tow rope, a container of water and a brightly colored cloth to serve as a flag, if necessary.
  • Ensure that your tires have adequate tread and keep your gas tank at least half-full.  Plan long trips carefully, listening to the latest weather reports and road conditions.
  • Travel during the day, and if possible, try to take someone along with you.

Winter Emergency Supply Kit

  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Portable radio or NOAA Weather Radio with extra batteries.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Essential prescription medicines.
  • Non-perishable Food.
  • Non-electric can opener.
  • Water (one gallon per person/per day).
  • Baby items
  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Fire extinguisher

Family Emergency Communications Plan

Develop a Family Emergency Communication Plan in case family members are separated from one another during a winter storm (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), and have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family contact. After a disaster, it is often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address and telephone number of the contact person.

Auto Safety Tips

  • About 70% of winter deaths related to snow and ice occur in automobiles.
  • Keep your gas tank full.
  • Install good winter tires with adequate tread.
  • Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal.
  • Check your windshield wiper fluid and keep your gas tank at least half-full.
  • Plan long trips carefully, listening to the radio or NOAA Weather Radio for the latest weather forecasts and road conditions.
  • Travel during daylight hours, and if possible, take another person with you.
  • In the event your car begins to spin out of control, here's what you should do:
    • Do NOT slam on the brakes.
    • When you begin to skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, quickly, then steer in the direction you want your car to go.
    • Before the rear wheels stop skidding, shift to drive and gently press the accelerator.
  • If a blizzard traps you in your car, pull off the highway.  Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from your radio antenna or window.
  • Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are more likely to find you.  Do not set out on foot, unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm.  When the engine is running, open the window slightly for ventilation.  Periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe.
  • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion.  In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers and floor mats for insulation.  Huddle with passengers.
  • Take turns sleeping.  One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Be careful not to waste battery power.  Balance electricity energy needs: the use of lights, heat and radio.
  • At night, turn on the inside light so work crews and rescuers can see you.
  • Keep emergency supplies in your car.

Winter Emergency Car Kit

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Charged cell phone
  • Basic first-aid kit
  • Necessary medications
  • Pocket knife
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Extra clothes (include rain gear, mittens, socks)
  • High-calorie, non-perishable foods (dried fruits, nuts, canned food)
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Container of water
  • Shovel
  • Sand for generating traction
  • Tire chains or traction mats
  • Basic tool kit (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  • Tow rope
  • Brightly colored cloth to utilize as a flag