Preparing for winter storms is crucial to survival and safety. Become familiar with winter storm warning signals so you can take appropriate action and learn the dangers of winter ailments so you can avoid injury.
Winter Weather Warnings
Familiarize yourself with the following weather alerts so you know what actions you may need to take:
- Winter storm watch: Be alert, a storm is likely
- Winter weather advisory: Experts expect conditions to cause significant hazards, especially to motorists
- Frost/freeze warning: Experts expect below freezing temperatures and damage to plants, crops or fruit trees
- Winter storm warning: Take action, a storm is entering—or is already in—the area
- Blizzard warning: The combination of snow and strong winds will produce blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill—seek refuge immediately
Preventing Cold Weather Injuries
To prevent serious injury from extreme cold, which could result in death or permanent damage, do the following:
- Select proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions and layer clothing when possible, making sure to include layers that repel moisture away from the skin.
- Take frequent breaks in warm, dry shelters when possible.
- Avoid over-exerting yourself, as your body needs this energy to keep its muscles warm. Work in pairs when it’s cold to share the load and watch for warning signs of frostbite or hypothermia.
- When you know you will be exposed to extreme cold, prepare yourself warm, sweet beverages to drink and warm, high-calorie foods to consume. Avoid drinks containing caffeine or alcohol.
Preparing Your Vehicle
The winter may be hard on you: Dry skin, brittle hair and an increased risk of colds and the flu. It is also hard on your vehicle. Cold temperatures make it difficult for engines to work properly, snow limits tire traction and salt causes rust and gravel pits on the exterior paint. Take the necessary steps to protect your car against the cold to ensure that it will last the entire season long!
- Place snow tires on your vehicle - Snow tires will increase traction and reduce your chances of slipping on slick surfaces.
- Check your tire pressure - Cold temperatures cause tire air pressure to drop.
- Check your car battery - Extreme temperatures can cause your vehicle’s battery to operate at less than 50 percent. If your battery is over three years old, have it tested.
- Check the antifreeze mixture - The ideal mixture of antifreeze and water in your radiator is 50:50.
- Check your four-wheel drive system for malfunctions - Check that your system engages and disengages properly and does not make any unusual noises when you start it.
- Change the oil in your engine and check the viscosity grade - To reduce the risk of problems with your engine oil, place thinner oil in your engine before the cold weather season.
- Have belts and hoses inspected
- Inspect wipers and refill wiper fluid
- Place a roadside emergency supply kit in your car
Other Winter Storm Hazards
Be on the lookout for the following winter storm hazards:
- Adverse driving conditions, such as low visibility and slippery roadways [view our tips for recovering from a skid]
- Icy walkways and sidewalks, which could cause slips and falls
- Falling objects like icicles, tree limbs and utility poles
- Electrocution due to downed power lines or downed objects in contact with power lines
- Exhaustion, dehydration and back injuries from conducting manual labor in the snow