Preparing for a Winter Storm

Cold snaps and heat waves can be as challenging and as deadly as any other natural disaster. You can best weather these times through preseason preparation and the right know-how.

Terms to Know
  • Freezing Rain - Rain that freezes on contact with roads, trees, sidewalks, etc.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning - Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.
  • Sleet - Rain that freezes before hitting the ground
  • Winter Storm Warning - A winter storm is occurring or will begin soon.
  • Winter Storm Watch - A winter storm is possible in the area
Check you disaster supply kit or develop one. Things that should be in your kit should include:
  • At east 3 gallons of water per person. (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Battery powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Canned food or non perishable food items to include comfort foods and can opener (3 day supply)
  • First aid kit and essential medications
  • Protective clothing and sleeping bags or blankets
  • Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
Prepare Your Car
Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
  • Antifreeze levels - Ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing
  • Battery and ignition system - Should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean
  • Brakes - Check for wear and fluid levels
  • Exhaust system - Check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary, carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning
  • Fuel and air filters - Replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas
  • Heater and defroster - Ensure they work properly
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights - Check for serviceability
  • Oil - Check for level and weight, heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well
  • Thermostat - Ensure it works properly
  • Windshield wiper equipment - Repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level
Prepare Your Home & Family
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
  • Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
Dress for the Weather
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than 1 layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.