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Winter Storms & Extreme Cold

Winter Weather picture

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION https://www.weather.gov/safety/winter-before

While the danger from winter weather varies across the country, nearly all residents, regardless of where they live, are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some point during this season. 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/low wind chills and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and freezing rain.

Planning and preparing can make a big difference in safety and resiliency in the wake of a winter storm. The ability to maintain or quickly recover following a winter storm requires a focus on preparedness, advanced planning, and knowing what to do in the event of a winter storm.

One of the primary concerns is the winter weather's ability to knock down power lines possibly causing a loss of heat and communications services to your home or office, sometimes for days at a time. Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region.

Researchers say that 70 percent of the fatalities related to ice and snow occur in automobiles, and about 25 percent of all winter related fatalities are people that are caught off guard, due to hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. What are your winter weather preparations and what are the appropriate steps to take that will ensure your winter weather safety? It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.

Sections:

Health & Family Safety


House and Home Safety


Vehicle and Travel Safety


Additional Information


Know Your Weather Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a winter storm hazard:

Freezing Rain
Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
Sleet
Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.

Watches

Winter Storm Watch
A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.
Wind Chill Watch
Issued for the potential of wind chills of -25F or less, which can cause rapid frostbite and increase the risk of hypothermia.
Blizzard Watch
Issued for the possibility of blizzard conditions. Forecasters are typically 50 percent confident that blizzard conditions will materialize when a blizzard watch is issued.

Warnings

Winter Storm Warning
Issued for a combination of heavy snow and/or ice, of which, at least one exceeds or meets warning criteria. Winter weather is expected to cause life-threatening public impact for a combination of winter hazards including heavy snow, ice, near blizzard conditions, blowing and drifting snow and/or dangerous wind chills.
Heavy Snow Warning
Issued when 7 inches or more of snow is expected in 12 hours or less, or 9 inches or more is expected in 24 hours or less. Heavy Snow Warnings are issued when there is a high degree of confidence that the entire event will be snow.
Ice Storm Warning
Issued for a ½ inch or more of ice accumulation which causes damage to power lines and trees. Ice Storm Warnings are issued when there is a high degree of confidence that the entire event is expected to be ice.
Blizzard Warning
Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
Frost/Freeze Warning
Below freezing temperatures are expected.
Wind Chill Warning
Issued when the wind chill is expected to be -25F or less. Frostbite can occur in less than 10 minutes.

Advisories

Winter Weather Advisory
Issued for a hazardous combination of snow, and ice of which neither meets or exceeds warning criteria. Issued for winter weather that will cause significant inconveniences or could be life-threatening if the proper precautions are not taken.
Snow Advisory
Issued when an average of 4 to 6 inches of snow is expected in 12 hours or less. Snow advisories are issued when there is a high degree of confidence that the entire event will be snow.
Freezing Rain Advisory
Any accumulation of freezing rain that can make roads slippery. Freezing rain advisories will only be issued when there is a high degree of confidence that the entire event will be freezing rain only.
Snow and Blowing Snow Advisory
Sustained wind or frequent gusts of 25 to 34 mph accompanied by falling and blowing snow, occasionally reducing visibility to a 1/4 mile or less for three hours or more.
Blowing Snow Advisory
Widespread or localized blowing snow reducing visibilities to a 1/4 or less with winds less than 35 mph.
Wind Chill Advisory
Issued for wind chills of -15F to -24F. Frostbite can occur in less than 30 minutes.

For more info please visit: Winter Weather Warnings, Watches and Advisories


Dress for the Weather

  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat. A hat will prevent loss of body heat.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

Walking Safely in Icy Conditions

  • Plan ahead, give yourself sufficient time and plan your route.
    • Traffic moves slowly in snowy conditions.
    • Give yourself extra time--don't assume a clear path for driving and walking will be available.
  • Wear shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice.
    • Footwear made of rubber and neoprene composite provide better traction than plastic and leather soles.
    • Wear flat-soled shoes. Avoid shoes with heels.
    • Products are available with abrasive soles or cleats that provide special traction for walking on snow and ice [Remember to remove when entering buildings.]
  • Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles, climbing or descending stairs, entering or leaving buildings.
    • Move slowly.
    • Remove snow/water from shoes when entering buildings.
    • Use handrails for support.
    • Try to keep your center of gravity over your support leg.
    • Use car for support.
    • Keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • Walk on designated walkways as much as possible.
    • Don’t take shortcuts over snow piles or areas where snow and ice removal is not feasible.
    • Look ahead when you walk. A sidewalk completely covered with ice may require travel along its grassy edge for traction.
    • Don’t text or read while walking.
  • Walk safely on snow or ice.
    • Take short steps or shuffle for stability.
    • Bend slightly forward and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over your feet as much as possible.
    • Keep your hands out of your pockets.
    • Be prepared to fall. If you fall, fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip and shoulder. Avoid using outstretched arms to brace yourself.
    • Bend your back and head forward to avoid hitting your head against the ground.

For more info please visit: Be Safe On Ice (PDF Download)


Prepared Penguins: Tips for a Safe and Healthy Winter

Winter Walking – Beware of Black Ice


Physical Exertion

Winter storm conditions and cold waves are the deadliest types of weather. Cold temperatures put an extra strain on your heart. Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, increase the risk of a heart attack.

To avoid problems, remember these tips:

  • Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.
  • Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion.
  • If you feel chest pain -- STOP and seek help immediately.

Snow Blower Safety

Do you have a snow blower? Did you know that most snow blower injuries happen because the operator did not read the operating instructions?

So, read your owner’s manual and follow these tips:

  • Never leave your snow blower running and unattended.
  • Make sure the discharge chute is not aimed at passing motorists or pedestrians.
  • Never put your hands into the discharge chute or augers to clear stuck snow and ice.
  • Never add fuel when the engine is running and hot.
  • Make sure you know how to turn the machine off quickly.

Protecting Pets in Winter

Winter is a time we should pay close attention to the safety of our pets. Here are some safety tips to follow from the Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management:

  • Ingesting anti-freeze can be fatal for your dog or cat. It has a sweet taste and even a tiny amount can cause severe kidney damage and even death. If you spill some, soak it up immediately. (Clay kitty litter works well. Discard the litter once the anti-freeze has been absorbed.)
  • Pets that live outdoors should be fed a bit more in the winter because they need the extra calories to stay warm. They also should have fresh water put out a couple of times a day, or consider a special bowl that prevents the water from freezing.
  • If your pet goes outdoors, be aware of the temperature. Pets can get frostbite very easily on the ears, tail and paws.
  • When walking your dog, check the paws to make sure that ice is not building up between the toes and that salt from the roads is not irritating the skin.
  • If your dog is a swimmer, keep it on a leash around open water or unstable ice. Hypothermia can set in quickly and the dog may be unable to get out of the water.
  • Before you start your car, you should honk the horn to make sure that a cat has not decided to nap in a warm spot under the hood of the vehicle.
  • If decorating for the holidays, keep ornaments out of the reach of your pets. Remember that poinsettias, holly, mistletoe and other plants can be toxic if ingested.

For more info please visit: Suffolk County SPCA


Winterize Your Home

  • 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.
  • Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow - or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.

Carbon Monoxide

Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal¬ burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.

For more info please visit: CDC webpage - Carbon Monoxide


Ice Melt

Calcium chloride is relatively harmless to animals, plants and soil. As a de-icing agent:

  • Melts ice and snow down to temperatures of -25°F
  • Safe to use on concrete and vegetation when used correctly
  • This concentrated formula allows for more than 4 times the coverage of ordinary rock salt.

For more info please visit: Environmentally Safe De-icers


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 wipers - 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
  • Snow brush, windshield scraper and small broom
  • Flashlight
  • Battery powered radio with extra batteries
  • Water
  • Snack food
  • Matches
  • Extra hats, socks and mittens
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Necessary medications
  • Blanket(s)
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Road salt and sand
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Fluorescent distress flag
  • Cell phone and charging cable
  • Life Hammer
  • Portable air compressor
  • Reflective vest in case you need to walk to get help

Stranded in a Vehicle

If a blizzard traps you in the car:

  • Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.
  • 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 a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • 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 blanket.
  • Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
  • Eat regularly and drink ample fluids to avoid dehydration, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs - the use of lights, heat, and radio - with supply.
  • 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.

De-Icing Your Windshield

  • Make a de-icer spray
  • A de-icer spray can make clearing off ice and snow much easier. You can easily prepare for the morning cold weather by mixing one up the evening before, even keeping a spray bottle filled with deicing solution in your car throughout the entire winter.
  • Rubbing Alcohol Solution: Highly recommended is the mixing of isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) and water. Mix two-thirds rubbing alcohol and one-third water and place into a spray bottle. Shake up the bottle, spray the solution on your windshield, and watch as the ice and frost disappears. Then turn on your windshield wipers and enjoy a clear windshield in a matter of seconds rather than waiting for your defroster to kick in.

For More Emergency Preparedness Information Visit:

Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management

Suffolk County Government

H. Lee Dennison Bldg

100 Veterans Memorial Hwy
P.O. Box 6100
Hauppauge, NY 11788

Riverhead County Center

County Road 51
Riverhead, NY 11901