Winter Safety for Citizens

Winter storms can affect different parts of the country in many different ways. Here in Kansas, we are all too familiar with the snow and extreme cold that winter weather can bring. Below is some information on how you can stay safe when Old Man Winter comes calling.

Know Your Terms From the National Weather Service

  • Winter weather advisories: Accumulation of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet are expected and will cause significant inconveniences;
  • Winter Storm Watch: A blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is possible in the listening area;
  • Winter Storm Warning: Hazardous winter weather - heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or is occurring in the listening area;
  • Wind Chill Advisory: Wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure;
  • Wind Chill Warning: Wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure;
  • Snow Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulations or a light dusting is expected;
  • Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulations is possible;
  • Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow (either falling snow or loose snow from the ground) that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting;
  • Blizzard Warning: Winter storm with sustained or gusting winds of 35 miles per hour or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below 1/4 of a mile, lasting for at least 3 hours;
  • Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground;
  • Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a hard surface with a temperature below freezing.

Before the Storm

  • Be familiar with the above winter storm watch / warning messages;
  • Have rock salt / ice melt on hand for use on walkways and kitty litter in your car for temporary traction;
  • Service snow removal equipment (if you have it);
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel as regular supplies could become unavailable;
  • Winterize your home:
    • Insulate walls and attic;
    • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows;
    • Install storm windows or cover with plastic from the inside;
  • Have safe emergency heating equipment available:
  • Install / check smoke detectors;
  • Have your disaster kit ready to go, in case you lose power;
  • Develop an emergency communication plan:
    • In case of separation, have a plan for getting back together;
    • Ask an out-of-state relative to the family point-of-contact (as long as they are not also affected);
    • Make sure every family member knows how to get ahold of the family contact;
    • Teach children how and when to call 911, police, or fire department, and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.

During the Storm

  • If indoors:
    • Stay indoors and dress warmly;
    • Conserve fuel;
    • Lower the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night (if possible);
    • Close off any unused rooms;
    • Listen to the radio or television for the latest information;
  • If outdoors:
    • Dress warmly;
    • Wear loose-fitting, layered clothing underneath a water-repellant coat (layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill);
    • Wear mittens rather than gloves as your fingers generate more warmth when they touch each other;
    • Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth;
    • Avoid overexertion;
    • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia;
    • Keep as dry as possible;
    • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance - the elderly, families with young children, those with disabilities.

After the Storm

  • Listen to local radio and / or TV stations or a NOAA weather radio for updated information and instructions;
  • Avoid driving unless absolutely necessary - roads may be blocked by snow or emergency vehicles;
  • Help neighbors that may require special assistance - the elderly, families with young children, those with disabilities;
  • Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.