Preparing for a Winter Storm

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Weekly topic – Preparing for a Winter Storm

Day 1

First make sure you are familiar with what is a winter watch, warning, and Advisory so you know the danger approaching. Below is a explanation of each one.

Watch – A watch is generally issued in the 24 to 72 hour forecast time frame when the risk of a hazardous winter weather event has increased (50 to 80% certainty that warning thresholds will be met). It is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set their plans in motion can do so. A watch is issued using the WSW Winter Weather Message product and will appear as a headline in some text products such as the Zone Forecast. It will change the color, as shown in the table below, of the counties on the NWS front page map according to what type of watch has been issued.
 

Winter Storm Watch – Conditions are favorable for a winter storm event (heavy sleet, heavy snow, ice storm, heavy snow and blowing snow or a combination of events) to meet or exceed local winter storm warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours. Criteria for snow is 7 inches or more in 12 hours or less; or 9 inches or more in 24 hours covering at least 50 percent of the zone or encompassing most of the population. Use “mid-point” of snowfall range to trigger a watch (i.e 5 to 8 inches of snow = watch). Criteria for ice is 1/2 inch or more over at least 50 percent of the zone or encompassing most of the population. This includes lake effect snow.

Wind Chill Watch – Conditions are favorable for wind chill temperatures to meet or exceed local wind chill warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours. Wind chill temperatures may reach or exceed -25°F.

Warning – These products are issued when a hazardous winter weather event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence (generally greater than 80%). A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.  Warnings are issued using the WSW Winter Weather Message product and will appear as a headline in some text products such as the Zone Forecast. It will change the color, as shown in the table below, of the counties on the NWS front page map according to what type of warning/advisory has been issued.

Blizzard Warning – Blizzard event is imminent or expected in the next 12 to 36 hours. Sustained wind or frequent gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph will accompany falling and/or blowing snow to frequently reduce visibility to less than 1/4 mile for three or more hours.

Ice Storm Warning – An ice storm event is expected to meet or exceed local ice storm warning criteria in the next 12 to 36 hours. Criteria for ice is 1/2 inch or more over at least 50 percent of the zone or encompassing most of the population.

Winter Storm Warning – A winter storm event (heavy sleet, heavy snow, ice storm, heavy snow and blowing snow or a combination of events) is expected to meet or exceed local winter storm warning criteria in the next 12 to 36 hours. Criteria for snow is 7 inches or more in 12 hours or less; or 9 inches or more in 24 hours covering at least 50 percent of the zone or encompassing most of the population. Use “mid-point” of snowfall range to trigger warning (i.e 5 to 8 inches of snow = warning). Criteria for ice is 1/2 inch or more over at least 50 percent of the zone or encompassing most of the population.

Lake Effect Snow Warning – A lake effect snow event is expected to meet or exceed local lake effect snow warning criteria in the next 12 to 36 hours. Widespread or localized lake induced snow squalls or heavy snow showers which produce snowfall accumulation to 7 or more inches in 12 hours or less. Lake effect snow usually develops in narrow bands and impacts a limited area within a county or forecast zone. Use “mid-point” of snowfall range to trigger warning (i.e 5 to 8 inches of snow = warning).

Wind Chill Warning – Wind chill temperatures are expected to meet or exceed local wind chill warning criteria in the next 12 to 36 hours. Wind chill temperatures may reach or exceed -25°F.

Advisory – These products are issued when a hazardous winter weather event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence (generally greater than 80%).  An advisory is for less serious conditions that cause significant inconvenience and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property. Advisories are issued using the WSW Winter Weather Message product and will appear as a headline in some text products such as the Zone Forecast. It will change the color, as shown in the table below, of the counties on the NWS front page map according to what type of advisory has been issued.

Winter Weather Advisory – A winter storm event (sleet, snow, freezing rain, snow and blowing snow, or a combination of events) is expected to meet or exceed local winter weather advisory criteria in the next 12 to 36 hours but stay below warning criteria. Criteria for snow is 4 inches or more in 12 hours or less covering at least 50 percent of the zone or encompassing most of the population. Use “mid-point” of snowfall range to trigger advisory (i.e 2 to 5 inches of snow = advisory). Criteria for ice is any ice accumulation less than 1/2 inch over at least 50 percent of the zone or encompassing most of the population. Winter Weather Advisory can also be issued for black ice. This is optional.

Wind Chill Advisory – Wind chill temperatures are expected to meet or exceed local wind chill advisory criteria in the next 12 to 36 hours. Wind chill temperatures may reach or exceed -15°F.

Day 2

Get your car’s winter emergency kit ready and loaded into the car.

Here is a list of items for your car’s winter emergency kit.

  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Extra clothing: Hats, gloves, scarves, and extra layers to keep warm if you need to be outside the car.
  • Non-perishable food: High-energy snacks like granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit.
  • Water: Keep several bottles of water in your car.
  • Flashlights: and extra batteries
  • Portable shovel: For digging your car out of snow if needed.
  • Ice scraper and snow brush: Clear snow and ice from your car’s windows and roof.
  • Sand, kitty litter, or traction mats: Provide traction if your car gets stuck in snow or ice.
  • Jumper cables: In case your car battery dies in the cold weather.
  • First aid kit: Include basic supplies like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.
  • Tool kit: Include basic tools like wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers.
  • Tow rope or chain: In case you need to be pulled out of a snowbank or ditch.
  • Reflective triangles or flares: Warn other drivers if your car is stopped on the side of the road.
  • Tire pressure gauge: Cold weather can affect tire pressure, so it’s good to have a gauge to check.
  • Cell phone charger: Keep your phone charged in case you need to call for help.
  • Emergency whistle: To attract attention if you’re stranded and need help.
  • Windshield washer fluid: Make sure it’s rated for winter use and won’t freeze.
  • Antifreeze/coolant: Check your levels before winter and keep extra in your car.
  • Duct tape and rope: Useful for temporary repairs or securing items.
  • Maps: In case you lose GPS signal and need to navigate offline.
  • Portable air compressor.
  • Hand warmers.
  • Reflective safety vest.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Emergency cash.
  • Fix a flat.

Day 3

Prepare your house.

  • Get your heating system checked and change the filter.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Insulate any exposed pipes.
  • Clear your gutters so melting snow can drain easy.
  • Trim trees that may fall on the house or power lines.
  • If you have window AC unites remove or cover them to keep the warmth in.
  • Ensure your chimney or any exhaust pipes are clean.
  • Check for any leaks in your door and window seals.
  • Check your roof for any damage and repair as needed.
  • Clear your yard of any debris that may be hidden under snow and become a fall hazard.
  • Check your fire extinguishers and replace if needed.
  • Service generator

Day 4

Don’t get sick from carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous, flammable gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and slightly less dense than air. It can cause sickness and even death. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. 

To protect yourself against carbon monoxide follow the rules below from the CDC.

  • Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home. Check or replace the detector’s battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Place your detector where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom. Consider buying a detector with a digital readout. This detector can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming. Replace your CO detector every five years.
  • Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
  • If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expert service it. An odor from your gas refrigerator can mean it could be leaking CO.
  • When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
  • Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly. Horizontal vent pipes for appliances, such as a water heater, should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors, as shown below. This prevents CO from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
  • Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
  • Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal – red, gray, black, or white – gives off CO.
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
  • When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector in your home.

Day 5

Stay informed and stay connected.

The items below will help keep you in the know.

  • Set up group text and social media messages that can be used to send or get updates on you and your family’s situation.
  • Make sure you have the contact information for your neighbors.
  • Share updates from reliable sources on your social media and via text messages to ensure others are aware of the storm.
  • Keep up-to-date with information from local news sources and FEMA. Don’t rely on the latest TikTok star to update.
  • Download the FEMA and turn on alerts to keep informed of approaching storms.
  • Know your numbers: memorize your home and family’s cell numbers should your phone be lost or destroyed.
  • Check on neighbors during the storm to ensure they are safe.

Day 6

Check your food and water storage.

FEMA and other government agencies recommend you keep at least a 3 day supply of food and water on hand. We recommend a minimum of 5 days, as winter storms can disrupt the distribution system, causing store shelves to stay empty for days.

It also recommended that you have a good supply of foods that do not need cooking since you may be out of power for some time. Cereal bars, canned fruits, peanut butter, and tuna with crackers are examples of foods that can be eaten without any cooking.

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