Preparedness - Winter Storms


  • Blizzard: Winds over 35 miles per hour with snow and 8 inches or more of blowing snow reducing visibility to near zero.
  • Blowing snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
  • Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light dusting is all that is expected.
  • Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.
  • Showers: Snow falling in varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.
  • Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.
  • Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.

Hypothermia - Low Body Temperature

  • Warning signs: 
    • Apparent Exhaustion
    • Disorientation
    • Drowsiness
    • Incoherence
    • Memory Loss
    • Slurred Speech
    • Uncontrollable Shivering
  • Detection: Take the person's temperature. If below 95 degrees, immediately seek medical care! If medical care is not available, begin warming the person slowly. Warm the body core first. If needed, use your own body heat to help. Get the person into dry clothing and wrap them in a warm blanket, covering the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food; warm broth is better. Do not warm extremities (arms and legs) first! This drives the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.

When a person is suffering from hypothermia, the extremities are cold (blue).

Winter Storms

In many areas of the country, winter brings heavy snowfall and very cold temperatures. Heavy snow can block roads and cause power lines to fall down. The cold temperatures can be dangerous if you are not dressed correctly. Here are some tips to help you be prepared for the winter storms:

  • Assemble an emergency kit for each vehicle, including:
    • Blanket
    • Flares
    • Flashlight
    • Sand/Salt
    • Shovel
    • Tow Chain
  • Assemble emergency supplies.
  • Avoid driving if possible.
  • Dress in layers of clothing.
  • If you become trapped in a vehicle, stay there unless shelter is in sight.
  • If you remain in your vehicle, run the engine periodically to keep warm, and slightly open a window for ventilation.
  • Monitor Local TV/radio stations for weather updates.
  • Prepare for isolation at home.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Winterize your vehicle.


  • Find Shelter: 
    • Try to stay dry.
    • Cover all exposed parts of the body.
    • A person with a body temperature of fewer than 95 degrees is suffering from hypothermia. See a doctor.
  • No Shelter:
    • Prepare a lean-to, wind-break, or snow cave for protection from the wind.
    • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
    • Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
    • Do not eat snow. It will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.

In a Car or Truck

  • Stay in your car or truck: Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold. (A vehicle is easier to find than you)
    • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
    • Slightly open the window on the downwind side to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers:
    • Turn on the dome light at night when running engine.
    • Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door.
    • Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling.
  • Exercise: From time to time vigorously move arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

At Home or in a Building

  • Stay inside: When using alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.:
    • Use fire safeguards.
    • Properly ventilate.
  • No Heat
    • Close off unneeded rooms.
    • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
    • Cover windows at night.
  • Eat and Drink: Food provides the body with the energy for producing its own heat. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Clothing: Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.