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Winter Weather Safety Tips

Winter Weather Safety Tips

A snowstorm in the early weeks of 2022 has reminded us of the importance of winter weather safety. From driving safety, to health, and emergency preparedness, there is a lot to remember each winter. We’ve compiled a list of safety tips to help you safely enjoy a winter wonderland!

Know the Difference

Weather can be unpredictable and change quickly, especially in terms of winter weather. When storms come, you probably turn to various media to get the latest information on snow totals and cancellations. It’s important to know your winter weather terms:

  • Winter storm warning. Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. These are typically issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.
  • Winter storm watch. Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. These are typically issued 12 to 48 hours before the start of a winter storm.
  • Winter weather advisory. Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

  • Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes.
  • Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin.
  • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not use a heating pad.
  • Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
  • Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.
  • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head and groin.


Driving in Winter Weather

If you must drive during or after a winter storm due to work or an emergency, there are several steps you can take to make your journey as safe as possible. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends:

  • Slow down
  • Inspect your tires frequently.
  • Remove all snow and ice from your vehicle before traveling.
  • Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside the truck. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes, and exit the road frequently.
  • Keep your gas tank close to full whenever possible. For electric vehicles, keep your vehicle as warm as possible during freezing temperatures. Plug your vehicle in at night during the winter, keeping the battery temperature in its optimal ranges.

In early January, an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm resulted in a traffic standstill on a 50-mile stretch of I-95 in Virginia that stranded drivers for 24 hours. It’s also important to keep your car stocked with essential supplies in the event you do get stuck in a storm.

  • Carry jumper cables, sand or kitty litter (helps your tires gain traction when stuck), a flashlight, and warning devices (such as flares and emergency markers).
  • Pack blankets, a cell phone charger, water, food, and any necessary medication.
  • Keep your gas tank close to full whenever possible.
  • If trapped in your car, stay inside as much as possible. If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia (see symptoms and treatments below).
  • Reduce your risk of a heart attack by avoiding overexertion when shoveling and walking in the snow.
  • Check regularly to make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow or other obstructions. Carbon monoxide poisoning is known as a silent killer since it is invisible and odorless.


Heart Health

As snow accumulates, we may over-exert while shoveling, walking through snow, or even using a snow blower. Each year, hospital emergency departments experience an uptick in heart-related symptoms after a snow storm. Harvard Health offers these tips for shoveling:

  • Warm-up your muscles before starting.
  • Shovel many light loads instead of fewer heavy ones.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Don’t feel that you need to clear every speck of snow from your property.
  • Head indoors right away if your chest starts hurting, you feel lightheaded or short of breath, your heart starts racing, or some other physical change makes you nervous. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911.


Stay Safe During & After a Winter Storm |

A Winter Wonderland Can Turn Deadly with Heart Attacks Brought on by Snow Shoveling | American Heart Association