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The danger from winter weather varies across the country, but nearly all Americans, regardless of where they live, are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some point in their lives.

One of the primary concerns is that winter weather can knock out heat, power and communications services for days at a time. The National Weather Service (NWS) refers to winter storms as “Deceptive Killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.

The NWS will issue a Winter Storm WATCH when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. The criteria for this watch can vary from place to place.

The NWS will issue a Winter Storm WARNING when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice accumulations. The criteria for this warning can vary from place to place.

Before the Storm
  • Make a plan for your family. Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.

  • Get an emergency kit. This will be helpful in the event that you must evacuate, but will also be a help if you stay and supplies are cut off for any period of time.

    A Winter Storm Emergency Kit should contain :
    Note: This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but will be a great start for you.
    1 gallon of water per day (per person)
    Water Bottle (per person)
    Water Purifier or filtration system. You can use bleach or iodine, but I prefer a filter.
    3 day supply of food based on a 2,000 calorie diet(per person)
    First-aid Kit
    Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm
    Flashlight with working batteries
    Sewing Kit- Needle and thread
    Dust mask
    Garbage Bags
    Wrench, pliers, or a multitool
    Cell Phone with charger
    Paracord or rope
    Survival Knife
    Duct Tape
    Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways
    Sand to improve traction
    Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment
  • Make sure your home is well insulated
    Get weather stripping around your doors and windowsills
    Insulate pipes with insulation
    Allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing
    Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts)
    Keep fire extinguishers on hand. House fires pose an additional risk as people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions
  • If you have a car, fill the gas tank in case you have to leave, also a full gas tank will keep the line from freezing. Make sure that you do a thorough weather check on your car.
During the Storm

If a Winter Storm WATCH is issued:

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio, or television stations for updates. Be alert to changing weather conditions.

  • Avoid unnecessary travel.
If a Winter Storm WARNING is issued:
  • Stay indoors during the storm.

  • Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.

  • If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.

  • If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).

  • 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. 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.

  • 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.
Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must:
  • Carry an Emergency Supply Kit in the trunk

  • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.

  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
If you are looking for a really good checklist, you can follow this link to a printable one from the Red Cross HERE.
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