Winter weather across the country ranges from balmy temperatures to snow flurries to blizzards, but most Americans are likely to face a severe winter storm at some point in their lives.
The National Weather Service calls winter storms deceptive killers because most of the casualties during them happen indirectly, due to hypothermia or traffic accidents on icy roads.
If your area is affected by a blizzard or other severe winter storm, these five tips can help keep you safe:
- Stock up on food, water, and supplies It’s no fun to brave the grocery store on the night before a storm, but make sure you have the necessities for at least several days without power. Making sure you have canned food and prepackaged meals can help keep you fed in the event of a power outage. Even for a brief snowstorm, don’t count on eating carryout or delivery, as many establishments close early or forgo delivery to keep their employees safe.
- Stay home Snow and ice often exacerbate bad traffic conditions, and roads may have more accidents than normal or shut down altogether. If forecasters are calling for an afternoon storm, check to make sure you know when it might start—just because you can safely get to work doesn’t mean it will be as easy later in the day.
- Avoid alcohol Though it may seem like a good idea when you’re snowed in, alcohol is dehydrating—even more so in the cold months, when people are less aware of their hydration levels. Alcohol also reduces your body’s ability to tell how cold it is, which can delay the onset of shivering and cause you to lose more body heat.
- Take extra fire prevention measures House fires are more common during winter storms. This is often due to the use of space heaters, wood-burning fires, and candles. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher ready to use in case of a fire.
- Carefully clear snow and ice When you do come out of hibernation, layer up and dress warmly. If you’re shoveling, take care of your back during the strenuous, and particularly hazardous, activity. If you use a snow-blower, only power it outdoors, wear hearing protection, and keep children out of its range. As you work, take frequent breaks to make sure you’re warm and hydrated.