BELLVILLE — Winter Storms Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region. Even areas that normally experience mild winters can be hit with a major snowstorm or extreme cold. Winter storms can result in flooding, closed highways, blocked roads, downed power lines and hypothermia after prolonged exposure to cold.
Understand winter storms
- Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
- Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
- Winter Storm Watch: A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather radio, commercial radio or television for more information.
- Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
- Blizzard Warning: Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 mph or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than one-quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
- Frost/Freeze Warning: Below-freezing temperatures are expected.
Before winter storms and extreme cold
- Your emergency supply kit should contain: rock salt to melt ice on walkways; sand to improve traction for your vehicles; and snow shovels and other snow-removal equipment.
- 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 car. Keep blankets and warm clothes in a car emergency kit.
During a winter storm
- Listen to your radio, television or NOAA weather radio for weather reports and emergency information.
- Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
- Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
- Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.
- Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid buildup of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.
- Drive only if absolutely necessary. If you must drive, consider the following: Travel during the day, don’t travel alone and keep others informed of your schedule. Also, stay on main roads; avoid back-road shortcuts.
Power outages or “rolling blackouts”
Power outages may occur throughout the year for a variety of reasons, including ice storms, thunderstorms and power station failures. Your emergency kit is designed to help your family during periods without power. For example, when power goes out, water purification systems may not function fully, so you may need to boil or treat water for drinking and cooking if you do not have enough bottled water on hand.
If the power is out for less than two hours, the food in your refrigerator and freezer should be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep food cold longer. If the power is out for longer than two hours, follow the guidelines below:
- A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
- In the refrigerated section, pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose.
- Use a digital, quick-response thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any refrigerated or frozen food with a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When in doubt, throw it out.
If the power goes out during extreme cold, you will need to take special precautions. To avoid hypothermia during a power outage, wear additional layers of clothing, use extra blankets when stationary, stay dry and take in plenty of food and water. Avoid alcohol use.
Power line hazards
Some power failures may be due to downed power lines. If a power line falls near your house, call your electric utility company. Do not go near the power line to remove debris or belongings and don’t let children play outside until the line is repaired.
Information from this article came from Richland Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health.