Winter Storms & Extreme Cold
Provided By McCreary County Emergency Management Agency
While the danger from winter weather varies across the country, nearly all Americans, regardless of where they live, are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some point in their lives. Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and freezing rain.
One of the primary concerns is the winter weather’s ability to knock out heat, power and communications services to your home or office, sometimes for days at a time. Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region.
The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the “Deceptive Killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.
To prepare for a winter storm you should do the following:
• Before winter approaches, add the following supplies to your emergency kit:
• Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a complete list of recommended products.
• Sand to improve traction.
• Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
• Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
• Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
• Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
• A NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts alerts and warnings directly from the NWS for all hazards. You may also sign up in advance to receive notifications from your local emergency services.
Download FEMA’s Be Smart. Know Your Alerts and Warnings for a summary of notifications at: www.ready.gov/prepare. Free smart phone apps, such as those available from FEMA and the American Red Cross, provide information about finding shelters, providing first aid, and seeking assistance for recovery.
• Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
Winterize Your Vehicle
Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
• Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
• Battery and ignition system – should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
• Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.
• Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
• Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
• Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
• Lights and flashing hazard lights – check for serviceability.
• Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
• Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
• Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
• Install good winter tires – Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
Update the emergency kits in your vehicles with:
• a shovel
• windshield scraper and small broom
• battery powered radio
• extra batteries
• snack food
• extra hats, socks and mittens
• first aid kit with pocket knife
• necessary medications
• tow chain or rope
• road salt and sand
• booster cables
• emergency flares
• fluorescent distress flag