All About Winter Storms...
- What are Winter Storms?
- Most people think of a Winter Storm as a snowstorm.
While this can be true, there are other types of weather associated with winter
storms that can be extremely hazardous.
- Storms with Strong Winds
Sometimes winter storms are accompanied by strong winds creating blizzard
conditions with blinding wind-driven snow, severe drifting, and dangerous
wind chill. Strong winds with these intense storms and cold fronts can knock
down trees, utility poles, and power lines. Storms near the coast can cause
coastal flooding and beach erosion as well as sink ships at sea.
- Extreme Cold
Extreme cold often accompanies a winter storm or is left in its wake. Prolonged
exposure to the cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening.
Infants and elderly people are most susceptible. What constitutes extreme
cold and its effect varies across different areas of the United States. In
areas unaccustomed to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered
"extreme cold." Freezing temperatures can cause severe damage to citrus fruit
crops and other vegetation. Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly
insulated or without heat. In the north, below zero temperatures may be considered
as "extreme cold." Long cold spells can cause rivers to freeze, disrupting
shipping. Ice jams may form and lead to flooding.
- Ice Storms
Heavy accumulations of ice can bring down trees, electrical wires, telephone
poles and lines, and communication towers. Communications and power can be
disrupted for days while utility companies work to repair the extensive damage.
Even small accumulations of ice may cause extreme hazards to motorists and
- Heavy Snow Storms
Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding commuters,
stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services.
Accumulations of snow can collapse buildings and knock down trees and power
lines. In rural areas, homes and farms may be isolated for days, and unprotected
livestock may be lost. In the mountains, heavy snow can lead to avalanches.
The cost of snow removal, repairing damages, and loss of business can have
large economic impacts on cities and towns.
- How do Winter Storms develop?
- There are three basic ingredients necessary for a winter storm to develop:
- COLD AIR:
- below freezing temperatures in the clouds and near the ground are necessary
to make snow and/or ice.
- to form clouds and precipitation. Air blowing across a body of water, such
as a large lake or the ocean, is an excellent source of moisture.
- something to raise the moist air to form the clouds and cause precipitation.
An example of lift is warm air colliding with cold air and being forced to
rise over the cold dome. The boundary between the warm and cold air masses
is called a front. Another example of lift is air flowing up a mountain side.
- Why are Winter Storms Dangerous and how do
they cause deaths?
- Most deaths from Winter Storms are not directly related to the storm itself
- People die in traffic accidents on icy roads.
- People die of heart attacks while shoveling snow.
- People die of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.
Everyone is potentially at risk during winter storms. The actual threat to
you depends on your specific situation. Recent observations indicate the following:
- Related to ice and snow:
- About 70% occur in automobiles.
- About 25% are people caught out in the storm.
- Majority are males over 40 years old.
- Related to exposure to cold:
- 50% are people over 60 years old.
- Over 75% are males.
- About 20% occur in the home.
What are the types of Winter Precipitation?
FLURRIES - Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light
dusting is all that is expected. SHOWERS - Snow falling at varying intensities
for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.
SQUALLS - Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation
may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.
BLOWING SNOW - Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant
drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the
ground picked up by the wind.
BLIZZARD - Winds over 35 mph with snow and blowing snow reducing visibility
to near zero.
- Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet
usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However,
it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.
- FREEZING RAIN
- Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes
it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating
or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.
What are the dangers associated with exposure to cold?
Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by that tissue being frozen.
Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities,
such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are
detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly
rewarm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia,
warm the body core before the extremities.
- HYPOTHERMIA: LOW BODY TEMPERATURE-
Warning signs - uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation,
incoherence, slurred speech,drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion.
Detection - Take the person's temperature. If below 95F (35C),immediately
seek medical care! If medical care is not available, begin warming the person
slowly. Warm the body core first. If needed, use your own body heat to help.
Get the person into dry clothing, and wrap them in a warm blanket covering
the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee, or any hot
beverage or food; warm broth is better. Do not warm extremities (arms and
legs) first! This drives the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart
- WIND CHILL -
is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by combined effects
of wind and cold. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body
at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also
affected by wind chill.
What are some other dangers associated with winter
- OVEREXERTION, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing
a car, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor
may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
WHAT DO I DO IF I AM CAUGHT IN A WINTER STORM?
When CAUGHT in a Winter Storm...
IN A CAR OR TRUCK
- try to stay dry
- cover all exposed parts of the body.
Do not eat snow: It will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.
- prepare a lean-to, wind-break, or snow cave for protection from the wind.
- build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
- place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
Stay in your car or truck. Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow
AT HOME OR IN A BUILDING
Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat:
Make yourself visible to rescuers:
- open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes
to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
- turn on the dome light at night when running engine.
- tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door.
- raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling.
Stay inside. When using ALTERNATIVE HEAT from a fireplace, wood stove, space
- use fire safeguards.
- properly ventilate.
Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.
- close off unneeded rooms.
- stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
- cover windows at night.
Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid
overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.
KEEP AHEAD OF THE STORM by listening to NOAA Weather
Radio, commercial radio, and television for the latest winter storm watches, warnings,
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