A winter storm can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow
that lasts several days. Some winter storms may be large enough to affect several states, while others may affect only a single community. Many winter storms are accompanied by
low temperatures and heavy and/or blowing snow, which can severely reduce visibility.
Winter storms can be defined differently in various parts of the country. Heavy snow in
the south can be a dusting in the mountains. Check with your local emergency management office, National Weather Service (NWS) office, or American Red Cross of Rhode Island for terms and definitions specific to your area.
PREPARE A WINTER STORM PLAN
- Have extra blankets on hand.
- Ensure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots.
ASSEMBLE A DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT
This kit should include:
- First aid kit and essential medications.
- Battery-powered NOAA Weather radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
- Canned food and can opener.
- Bottled water (at least one gallon of water per person per day to last at least 3 days).
- Extra warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat.
- Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit for your car, too.
- Have your car winterized before winter storm season.
CLICK HERE for Disaster Supplies Kit information.
STAY TUNED FOR STORM WARNINGS
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information.
KNOW WHAT WINTER STORM WATCHES AND WARNINGS MEAN
- A winter storm WATCH means a winter storm is possible in your area.
- A winter storm WARNING means a winter storm is headed for your area.
- A blizzard WARNING means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately!
WHEN A WINTER STORM WATCH IS ISSUED
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio, and TV stations, or cable TV such as The Weather Channel for further updates.
- Be alert to changing weather conditions.
- Avoid unnecessary travel.
WHEN A WINTER STORM WARNING IS ISSUED
- Stay indoors during the storm.
- If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you
warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
- Understand the hazards of wind chill, which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin.
- As the wind increases, heat is carried away from a person's body at an accelerated rated, driving down the body temperature.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy, sidewalks.
- After the storm, if you shovel snow, be extremely careful. It is physically
strenuous work, so take frequent breaks. Avoid overexertion.
- Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must...
- Carry a Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk.
- Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect
to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
IF YOU DO GET STUCK
- Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
- Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
- As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.
- Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
ADDITIONAL MATERIALS AVAILABLE
American Red Cross of Rhode Island can provide additional materials in English and Spanish:
- "Safe Steps for Winter Weather" (ARC 5056)
- "Surviving the Cold" 16-minute video (Available for a nominal fee) (321709)
- "Your Family Disaster Plan"
- "Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit" (ARC 4463)
Materials for Children:
- "Be Ready 1-2-3" involve puppets who give important safety information to
children ages 3-8 about residential fire safety, winter storms, and earthquakes.
- "Disaster Preparedness Coloring Book" (PDF File) (ARC 2200, English, or Spanish) for use by children 3-10.
- "Adventures of the Disaster Dudes" (ARC 5024) video and Presenter's Guide for use by an adult with children in grades 4-6.