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December 07, 2021

WINTER WEATHER IN AMERICA

Situated halfway between the warm equator and the cold north pole, the United States receives just about every type of dangerous or extreme weather. 

During winter, when the daylight hours shorten and colder Arctic air invades, most states see a variety of winter weather risks that represent everything from an inconvenient bother to a life-challenging emergency…depending on where you live.

Because some states get regular bouts of winter cold and others don’t, a four-inch snow in Wisconsin is less of an inconvenience than a 4-inch snow in Atlanta.  Wisconsin has fleets of snowplows and salt trucks, and the people who live there have lots of practice driving on ice and snow - many put a set of snow tires on their car every winter.  Atlanta, Georgia is at the opposite end of the spectrum: few plows, little winter driving experience, and vehicles not ready for slippery roads.  Regardless of where you live, there are some things you can do to be better prepared for America’s winter weather.

WINTERIZE YOUR HOME

Caulking, weather-stripping and insulating can save dollars on your heating bills and keep your home more comfortable. If you live in a mobile home, add heating elements to the water pipes underneath your house, as frozen pipes can be an expensive inconvenience, difficult to fix without professional plumbers.

PREPARING FOR ELECTRICITY LOSS

If an ice storm knocked out local electricity for a few days, could you survive in your house without it? Do you or your neighbors have a back-up generator that would allow you to power your stove or heater?  In the February 2021 Arctic Freeze, people living in Texas found out they needed winter gloves, hats, and heavy coats.  Those who were “winter-ready” already had them. 

WINTERIZE YOUR CAR

If you live anywhere that could possibly receive ice or snow, have a shovel, some sand or some kitty litter in the trunk…it could help you dig and drive your way out of a snowbank or an icy patch. Jumper cables come in handy when cold weather zaps the power from your battery.  Likewise, a pair of gloves, a wool cap and a reflective survival blanket are good ideas.

SURVIVAL KITS

Some odd things to throw in your car trunk survival kit are candles, matches and toilet paper. If you’re stranded in your car in a snowstorm, simple candles can provide enough heat to keep you alive.  And toilet paper?  The 2016 Pennsylvania Turnpike Blizzard stranded thousands of motorists on lonely stretches of highway.  When you’re stranded for days in your car, a roll of TP comes in handy, as does a roadside bush.

 

 In January 2016, 500 travelers in hundreds of vehicles spent more than 24 hours snowed-in on 30 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.   When you travel in winter weather, be prepared. (Photo by PA Turnpike) 

STAY ALERT

By far the most important winter weather safety advice is to carefully monitor the National Weather Service forecast. 
A Winter Storm Watch is issued a few days before the first snow flies.  Are you planning to drive into that area?  

If you plan to travel, look ahead and monitor www.weather.gov for the latest forecasts and conditions.  Pay heed to watches and warnings and be willing to adjust your travel. 
Staying off the roads during active snow and ice storms allows road crews to more easily and quickly clear paths, putting streets and highways back into service faster.  

Having a portable NOAA Weather Radio provides the quickest access to updated forecasts, watches and warnings. And with a hand-crank emergency radio like our ER-50, you can create your own electricity, even when stranded.

Winter weather is tricky because a Winter Storm Warning in Minnesota might not be issued unless 8 inches of snow is expected.  A Winter Storm Warning in Mississippi could come in expectation of 2 inches of snow, and in either location, just a quarter inch of ice might cause more traffic accidents than two feet of snow. 

DRIVING IN WINTER WEATHER

Automobile and truck crashes are the number one cold weather killer, so be patient and drive slowly on ice and snow, remembering posted speed limits apply only to dry pavement. 

Rain, snow and fog require you to slow down. And always drive defensively: the other guy may come sliding through his four-way stop sign, so expect crazy things to happen.

STAYING SAFE IN WINTER WEATHER

When you’re out in the elements for an extended period, hypothermia and frostbite are risks to life and limb.  Learn the symptoms of hypothermia and know what to do about it. 

Knowing the forecasted wind chill temperature allows you to dress appropriately, cutting down on the risk of skin-damaging frostbite. 

In winter, it’s better to be overdressed in layers of clothing, than to be underdressed and vulnerable to the cold.  You can always remove an unnecessary layer of clothes.

ABOUT BLIZZARDS

An interesting note about blizzards:  It doesn’t have to be snowing in order to have a blizzard. 

Blizzards are defined by wind speed, cold temperatures and blowing, drifting snow…whether the snow is coming down now, or came down yesterday.  That’s why a  Blizzard Warning does not always mean a huge dump of snow. 

However and whenever the snow got on the ground, strong winds could create white-out conditions, slippery driving, and deadly windchills.

HAVE AN EMERGENCY RADIO

Keep informed during the winter. 

If you plan to travel, look ahead and monitor www.weather.gov for the latest forecasts and conditions.  Pay heed to watches and warnings and be willing to adjust your travel. 

Staying off the roads during active snow and ice storms allows road crews to more easily and quickly clear paths, putting streets and highways back into service faster.  

Having a portable NOAA Weather Radio provides the quickest access to updated forecasts, watches and warnings. And with a hand-crank emergency radio like our ER-50, you can create your own electricity, even when stranded.

Winter weather is tricky because a Winter Storm Warning in Minnesota might not be issued unless 8 inches of snow is expected.  A Winter Storm Warning in Mississippi could come in expectation of 2 inches of snow, and in either location, just a quarter inch of ice might cause more traffic accidents than two feet of snow.  

For more tips on cold weather preparedness and safety, go here.


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