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Campus Preparedness > Emergency Tips

Winter Storm Tips

Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region.

The results can range from isolation due to blocked roads and downed power lines to the havoc of cars and trucks sliding on icy highways.

What Do To Before the Winter Season

Know the terms used by weather forecasters:

  • Freezing rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground.
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground
  • Winter Weather Advisory: issued when cold, ice and snow are expected.
  • Winter Storm Watch: issued when severe winter weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible within the next day or two.
  • Winter Storm Warning: issued when severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin.
  • Blizzard Warning: issued when heavy snow and strong winds will produce a blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning: issued when below freezing temperatures are expected.

Gather emergency supplies:

  • A battery powered NOAA weather radio and a battery powered commercial radio; extra batteries.
  • Food that does not require cooking.
  • Extra water in clean soda bottles.
  • Rock salt to melt ice on walkways; sand to improve traction.
  • Flashlights and battery powered lamps and extra batteries in case of a power outage. Candles are a fire hazard. See Emergency Supplies Checklist.

Prepare for possible isolation in your home:

  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel.
  • Have emergency heating equipment and fuel (a gas fireplace or a wood burning stove or fireplace.)
  • If you have a fireplace, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand.

Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply:

  • Insulate walls and attics.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic.

What To Do During a Winter Storm

Listen to the radio or television for weather reports and emergency information.

  • Dress for the season:
    • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garment should be tightly woven and water repellent.
    • Mittens are warmer than gloves.
    • Wear a hat; most body heat is lost through the top of the head.
    • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from the cold air.
  • Be careful when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite - a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia - uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get medical help immediately.
  • When at home, conserve fuel if necessary by keeping your house cooler than normal. Temporarily "close off" heat to some rooms.

Winter Driving Tips

If a blizzard traps you in your car:

  • Pull off the highway. Set your hazard lights to "flashing" and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window.
  • Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most 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. Be careful: Distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close but be too far to walk to in deep snow.
  • Run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a window slightly for ventilation. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear away 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 and use your coat for a blanket.
  • Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look out for rescue crews.
  • Be careful not to use-up battery power. Balance electrical energy needs - the use of lights, heat and radio - with supply.
  • At night, turn on the inside dome light so work crews can see you.
  • If stranded in a remote rural or wilderness area, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane. Once the blizzard passes, you may need to leave the car and proceed on foot.
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