Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region. Even areas
that normally experience mild winters can be hit with a major snowstorm or
extreme cold. Winter storms can result in flooding, storm surge, closed
highways, blocked roads, downed power lines and hypothermia.
Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel
supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors
and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating
fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good
supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
Include the following in your disaster supplies kit:
- Rock salt to melt ice on walkways
- Sand to improve traction
- Snow shovels and other snow
To winterize your car, attend to
- Battery and ignition system
should be in top condition and battery terminals clean.
- Ensure antifreeze levels are
sufficient to avoid freezing.
- Ensure the heater and defroster
- Check and repair windshield wiper
equipment; ensure proper washer fluid level.
- Ensure the thermostat works
- Check lights and flashing hazard
lights for serviceability.
- Check for leaks and crimped pipes
in the exhaust system; repair or replace as necessary. Carbon
monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
- Check breaks for wear and fluid
- Check oil for level and weight.
Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate
- Consider snow tires, snow tires
with studs, or chains.
- Replace fuel and air filters.
Keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a
full tank of gas.
The following are guidelines for
what you should do during a winter storm or under conditions of extreme
- Listen to your radio, television,
or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency
- Eat regularly and drink ample
fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling
snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack –a major cause
of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
- Watch for signs of frostbite.
These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in
extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia.
These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss,
disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent
exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim
to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body
first, and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious.
Get medical help as soon as possible.
- Conserve fuel, if necessary, by
keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off
heat to some rooms.
- Maintain ventilation when using
kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel
kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.
- Drive only if it is absolutely
necessary. If you must drive, consider the following
- Travel in the daylight, don't travel alone, and keep others informed of
- Stay on main roads; avoid back road shortcuts
If a blizzard traps you in the car, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Pull off the highway. Turn on
hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or
- 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
10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open an
upwind window slightly for ventilation. This will protect you from
possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clear snow from the
- 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
- Take turns sleeping. One
person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
- Drink fluids to avoid
- Be careful not to waste battery
power. Balance electrical energy needs–the use of lights, heat, and
- Turn on the inside light at night
so work crews or rescuers can see you.
- If stranded in a remote area,
stomp large block letters in an open area spelling out HELP or SOS and
line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel
who may be surveying the area by airplane.
- Leave the car and proceed on
foot–if necessary–once the blizzard passes.