Winter storms can bring snow, sleet and freezing rain across the entire United States and its territories. Even Hawaii gets snow on the Big Island, and major cities as far south as Atlanta and San Antonio have been paralyzed by snow and ice.
Blizzards occur when strong wind causes blowing snow and whiteout conditions, making roads impassable. Thousands of people are injured or killed every year in traffic accidents related to slippery roads from winter storms.
Winter Storm Emergency Supplies and Tips
Emergency supplies for a winter or ice storm are similar to supplies needed in any emergency – but there are some additional items. These include kitty litter or sand to keep sidewalks and steps clear of ice, a windshield scraper for the car, warm clothes and extra blankets. Remember, in a severe ice storm, lines may be down and power out for a week or more.
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Make sure you have the following basic emergency supplies on hand in preparation for a winter weather event:
- One-week supply of non-perishable food, one gallon of bottled water per person per day, coolers for food and ice storage
- Credit cards and cash (banks and ATMs may not have power)
- Battery-operated radio, NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries or hand crank radio, cell phones and chargers
- First-aid kit, seven-day supply of prescription medications, copies of prescriptions, special medical items, hearing aids and batteries, eyeglasses
- Manual can opener, knife, tools, booster cables, fire extinguisher, duct tape, tarp, rope, flashlight with extra batteries
- Supplies for babies, the elderly, family members with special health care needs, and food and supplies for pets
- Remember animals are particularly vulnerable to extreme outdoor elements. Do NOT leave your pets exposed to the cold during a winter weather event. If you have outdoor pets ensure they are properly protected from the cold by bring them indoors or providing other adequate shelter.
- If heavy ice on power lines cuts utility service, be extremely careful using generators or gas powered equipment. Carbon monoxide (CO) is invisible, odorless and deadly. It can build up in a matter of minutes. Do not use generators, charcoal grills or gas grills inside the house, garage or enclosed space. Do not try to heat the house using a gas range or oven.
Winter Weather Vehicle Safety
When winter storms threaten, monitor broadcast media and NOAA Weather Radio for up to date information before getting on the roads. Also monitor road conditions and keep your gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. On icy roads, drive slowly and increase distance required for stopping. Watch for downed trees and power lines across roads. If power is out, treat all intersections as four-way stops.
Keep the following emergency supplies in your vehicle in case you encounter winter weather on the road:
- Blankets/sleeping bags and extra clothing, mittens and hat
- Cell phone, radio, flashlight, extra batteries
- First-aid kit and pocket knife
- High calorie, non-perishable food, bottled water
- Sack of sand or cat litter for de-icing roadway
- Windshield scraper, tool kit, booster cables, tow rope and shovel
Power Outage – After The Storm
When severe winter and ice storms strike, the power may be out for several days. Here are some safety tips for keeping you and your family safe as you wait for power to be restored:
- Generator Safety. NEVER operate generators and other fuel-powered devices inside a home or an enclosed space, such as a garage. Unsafe practices could result in a build-up of deadly carbon monoxide fumes. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. If anyone in your home experiences these symptoms, step outdoors, ventilate the area and dial 9-1-1.
- Power Outages. Report power outages. Turn off electrical appliances that were operating at the time power went off, including your heating system. Leave one light on to alert you when service is restored.
- Down Power Lines. Power lines weighted with ice may be down or touching other objects, an extremely dangerous situation. Contact with power lines can charge cables, chain link fences and even tree limbs with electricity. Power lines can electrify a fence line throughout an entire neighborhood. Contact your power company for assistance.
- Falling Tree Branches. Many people are injured each year by falling tree branches after any kind of severe storm. Ice storms are no exception. Heavy ice can make tree limbs and trees themselves unstable. Be safe. Wait until the thaw and call a tree care specialist.
- Icy Roads. Refrain from driving on icy roads. If you must travel, drive slowly and increase your stopping distance. Watch for downed trees and power lines across roads. If power fails, treat all intersections as four-way stops. Pack blankets, water, food items and a phone to take with you.
- Candle and Fire Safety. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and be cautious with fire. Keep candle flames at least three feet away from cardboard, wood and other combustible objects. Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets, and extinguish flames before leaving a room or falling asleep.
Additional Winter Weather Resources