Winter Weather Safety

Sometimes winter storms are accompanied by strong winds creating blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow, severe drifting, and dangerous wind chills. Strong winds with these intense storms and cold fronts can knock down trees, utility poles, and power lines. Storms near the coast can cause coastal flooding and beach erosion as well as sink ships at sea. In the west and Alaska, winds descending off the mountains can gust to 100 mph or more, damaging roofs and other structures.

Extreme cold often accompanies a winter storm or is left in its wake. Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible.

Ice storms are sometimes associated with winter storms. Heavy accumulations of ice can bring down trees, electrical wires, telephone poles and lines, and communication towers. Communications and power can be disrupted for days while utility companies work to repair the extensive damage. Even small accumulations of ice may cause extreme hazards to motorists and pedestrians.

Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding commuters, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services. Accumulations of snow can collapse buildings and knock down trees and power lines. In rural areas, homes and farms may be isolated for days, and unprotected livestock may be lost. The cost of snow removal, repairing damages, and loss of business can have a large economic impact on cities and towns.

The last major snowfall in wave country was a record-breaker when over 22 inches fell on February 4 - 6, 1998. The last paralyzing storm came with ice and snow in January of 1994. This storm cost the city of Louisville and surrounding areas a great deal of time, expense, and inconvenience.

WATCHES AND WARNINGS

Winter Storm Watch
Severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice are possible within the next day or two. Prepare now!

Winter Storm Warning
Severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin in your area& . Stay indoors!

Blizzard Warning
Snow and strong winds will combine to produce blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill. Seek refuge immediately.

Frost/Freeze Warning
Below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause significant damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees. In areas un accustomed to freezing temperatures, people who have homes without heat need to take added precautions.

WINTER STORM SAFETY TIPS

Outside:

  • Find Shelter. Try to stay dry. Cover all exposed parts of the body.
  • No Shelter. Prepare a lean-to, wind break, or snow cave for protection from the wind. Build a fire for heat and to attract attention. Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
  • Do Not Eat Snow. It will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.

In a Car or Truck:

  • Stay in your car or truck. Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
  • Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat. Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers. Turn on the dome light at night when the engine is running. Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door. Raise your hood to indicate trouble after the snow stops falling.
  • Exercise. From time to time vigorously move arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and keep warm.

At Home or in a Building:

  • Stay Inside. When using alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc: use fire safeguards, properly ventilated.
  • No Heat. Close off unneeded rooms. Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors. cover windows at night.
  • Eat and Drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Wear Layers of Clothing. Loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.