Tips for Winter Storm Safety

Winter storms can quickly result in extremely dangerous weather conditions. A single storm could blanket several states in snow and ice, creating hazardous conditions and stretching emergency services to their limits. Every year people lose their lives as a result of such storms, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. Education and preparation are the keys to riding out even the most serious of winter storms.

Below is a list of terms that are used in weather reports, and what they mean :1

• Winter Storm Outlook – winter weather is possible in the next 3 to 6 days
• Winter Weather Advisory – winter weather may cause significant inconvenience or hazard, but is not expected to be life-threatening
• Winter Storm Watch – winter storm conditions are possible in the next two days, and people in affected areas should review their safety preparations
• Winter Storm Warning – severe, life-threatening conditions will begin within the next 24 hours

How to Prepare for Winter Weather

Once you know what type of winter weather you should expect, the next step is to prepare for it. You should winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full to prevent the fuel line from freezing. You might want to consider having your chimneys and heating ducts inspected.

Carbon monoxide buildup is a danger during a heavy winter storm because accumulated snow can block your house’s usual venting points. Every year roughly 5,000 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning. To protect yourself and your family, you should consider investing in a carbon monoxide alarm. If you already have one, you should have it checked at the beginning of every winter, and make sure that your family knows where to meet in the event that the house has to be evacuated.2

Putting together a safety and supply kit is another way that you can prepare for winter weather. The Red Cross recommends having a safety and supply kit that contains:3

  • A three-day supply of water
  • A three-day supply of food
  • A flashlight
  • A battery-powered radio
  • Batteries
  • A first-aid kit
  • Medications
  • A multi-purpose tool
  • Sand and rock salt
  • Warm coats, gloves, and hats

What to do When Winter Weather Arrives

Once the weather hits, the best thing to do is stay inside and wait for the storm to clear and the roads to become safe to travel.

On average, coastal Virginia is hit by only one or two severe winter storms per year.4 Facing a severe winter storm is an intimidating prospect, but with the proper preparation you can keep yourself and your family safe.


[1] https://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6303a6.htm

[3] Ibid.

[4] For more information on Virginia’s annual snowfall: https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Virginia/annual-snowfall.php