To help everyone get ready for the drop in temperature, the National Weather Service posted useful winter weather tips on its website. To properly prepare for an impending winter storm, it is important to know the difference between winter storm warnings, watches and advisories.
According to the NWS, a winter storm warning means snow, sleet or ice is expected and people in the area should take immediate action. A warning means confidence is high that a winter storm will produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain and cause significant impact to the region.
A winter storm watch means that snow, sleet or ice is possible and you should be prepared. Confidence is medium that the winter storm may produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain that may have significant impact.
A winter weather advisory means that wintry weather is expected and people should exercise caution. Light amounts of wintry precipitation or flurries will cause icy conditions and could affect travel if precautions are not taken.
However, the meanings of warnings, watches and advisories are relative to the region in which they are issued. For example, the amount of snow that belies a winter storm warning in Georgia is much lower than in Iowa, according to the NWS.
The NWS defines freezing rain as rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a layer of ice on plants, roads, sidewalks and power lines. Sleet is rain that freezes into ice before reaching the ground, causing roads to become slippery.
Wind chill is a measure of how cold a person feels due to the combined effect of wind and cold temperatures. Higher wind speeds in cold weather hasten the loss of heat from the body. The wind chill index is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin. It’s important to remember that animals also feel the effects of wind chill, and to properly clothe pets in winter. As the internal body temperature falls, hypothermia can occur. Warning signs of hypothermia include confusion, shivering, difficulty speaking, sleepiness, and stiff muscles.
The NWS suggests people make extra preparations before a winter storm, by stocking the home, car, and office with emergency supplies.
An emergency supply kit in a car should include: a cellphone charger, ice scraper, first aid kit, jumper cables, spare tire, flares, sand or kitty litter, snow shovel, flashlight, a warm blanket or emergency thermal blanket, water, and healthy snacks.
For the home or office, stock up with a flashlight and/or candles, batteries, a battery-powered radio, water, non-perishable food items, a first aid kit, a space heater, a fire extinguisher, firewood.
If you have to drive, drive slowly. All snow and ice should be cleared from the car before driving, including from the roof. If your car begins to skid, turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go,while steadily breaking. Do not attempt to use the gas pedal.
If stuck in your car, stay inside, run the engine for several minutes per hour, crack the window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning. Exercise occasionally (think jogging in place or jumping jacks, nothing strenuous) to keep blood circulating and stay warm.
Even after the blizzard or storm, precautions must still be taken. Melting snow can cause flooding, partially cleared roads can be icy or blocked, and creeks and rivers can overflow. Heavy snow can knock down power lines or cause gas leaks. The weather service says it is important to stay informed on such conditions, and report any hazards you may see to the appropriate authority. Black ice is caused by the refreezing of melted snow or ice. Potholes also are common after winter storms.
For the full lowdown on Winter Preparedness visit nws.noaa.gov/os/winter.