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Surviving Severe Winter Weather

winter weatherSevere winter weather can take many different forms in Middle Tennessee, including heavy snow, ice storms, extreme cold, sleet and even icy driving conditions. This wintry weather can knock out heat, power and telecommunications for hours, days or even weeks. Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region. Winter storms can be deceptive killers, because most deaths are indirectly related to the actual winter storm; people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and from hypothermia from prolonged exposure to the extreme cold.

Here are some tips to help you survive severe winter weather:

  • Keep advised on changing weather conditions
  • Keep your emergency kit handy. Keep extra clothes, blankets, sand, shovel in the trunk of your car.
  • Have your family communications plan ready
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to cold
  • Avoid overexertion outdoors (shoveling snow)
  • Keep dry
  • Watch for signs of frostbite, which may include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia, which may include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If hypothermia is suspected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing and warm the center of the body.
  • Travel only when necessary, avoiding night time travel, and do not travel alone or on back roads.
  • Wear several layers of clothes, a hat, mittens and waterproof shoes etc.
  • Be careful when heating your home because heating-related house fires occur often during the winter
  • Bring your pets inside during winter weather/extreme cold. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
  • When using kerosene heaters, maintain ventilation to avoid build up of toxic fumes, refuel outdoors and keep away from flammable objects.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning device inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or other partially enclosed area. Keep unit away from doors, windows and vents to avoid carbon monoxide to go indoors. Install carbon monoxide alarms in your home.

Some winter weather terms to be familiar with are:

  • Freezing rain: rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating ice coating on the roads, walkways, trees and power lines
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet can cause moisture on the road to freeze and become slippery
  • Winter Weather Advisory: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and be hazardous.
  • Winter Storm Watch: A winter storm is possible in your area.
  • 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 more and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning: Below freezing temperatures are expected.