This is Winter Awareness Week — already!

/Photo by Dave Dyet via stock.xchng

From the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department:

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth has joined with Governor Scott Walker in proclaiming November 5th through the 9th, 2012, as Winter Awareness Week in Wisconsin.

“The purpose of Winter Awareness Week is to get people thinking about and preparing for winter weather conditions that can threaten their safety,” Beth said. “Now is the time to winterize your car and home, put new batteries in your NOAA All Hazard Weather radio and prepare emergency kits for your home and vehicle. Being prepared for winter weather means knowing what different weather terminology means, staying tuned to changing weather conditions, and being prepared at home, at work, and at school for potential power outages and severe winter weather.”

Winter storms are known as deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly linked to the weather: like traffic accidents on icy roads, people having strokes or heart attacks from over exertion (shoveling, snow blowing) and people dying from prolonged exposure to the cold. To keep people informed and aware of upcoming weather conditions, the National Weather Service has developed key weather terminology so that people will always know what type of weather may be coming their way. People need to be aware of local forecasts and warnings, and familiarize themselves with key weather terminology so that they remain safe and are always prepared for what Mother Nature has in store for them. Current and upcoming winter weather information can always be found 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on NOAA All Hazard Weather radios; the radio frequency assigned to Kenosha/Racine is 162.450 MHz; NOAA radios can be purchased at many stores with prices ranging from $30 – $80.

To stay informed on winter weather, the National Weather Service has established the following Advisories and Warnings:

Winter Storm Outlook: Issued prior to a Winter Storm Watch. The Outlook is given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible and are usually issued 3 to 5 days in advance of a winter storm.

Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.

Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below ¼ mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.

Lake Effect Snow Advisory: Issued when accumulation of lake effect snow will cause significant inconvenience.

Lake Effect Snow Warning: Issued when heavy lake effect snow is imminent or occurring.

Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life with several minutes of exposure.

Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure.

Winter Weather Advisories: 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.

Dense Fog Advisory: Issued when fog will reduce visibility to ¼ mile or less over a widespread area.

Snow Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or a light dusting is all that is expected.

Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

Snow 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.

Sleet: 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, sleet 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.

To be prepared for winter weather you should do the following:

  • Keep posted on weather conditions via your NOAA All Hazard Weather Radio and/or local media.
  • Winterize your home and vehicle.
  • Have your furnace checked for carbon monoxide; replace filter as needed.
  • Have fireplace/chimney checked for proper operation.
  • Caulk/seal cracks or gaps in/around doors and windows.
  • Check vehicle battery, antifreeze, tires, wiper blades, hoses, belts, and spark plugs.

Be prepared for possible short-term isolation at home, work or school due to a blizzard, ice storm, winter storm, or prolonged sub-zero temperatures that can cause power outages. You should have on hand:

  • Emergency food and water supply (enough for each person for three days).
  • Battery operated flashlight, radio, and extra batteries.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Alternative heating (fireplace, camp stove, etc.).
  • During severe winter weather, travel only if necessary, and avoid all unnecessary trips.

If you travel:

  • Maintain a full tank of gas.
  • Have emergency winter storm supplies in your vehicle such as a container of sand, shovel, windshield scraper, flashlight, blankets or sleeping bag, extra gloves/mittens, and winter headgear to cover your head and face.
  • Keep car radio on and tuned to a local station for updated weather information.
  • Travel by daylight and use major roads.
  • Have high-calorie non-perishable food.
  • Let someone know your timetable and primary/alternate routes.

Avoid frostbite and hypothermia by:

  • Avoiding direct skin contact with metal and fluids.
  • Covering your head, face and neck.
  • Staying dry.
  • Avoiding tight fitting clothing especially on hands and feet.
  • Wearing multiple layers of clothing and multiple pairs of socks.

Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an extra strain on your heart and body. If you are elderly or have heart problems and are shoveling or snow-blowing, you may be engaging in too much strenuous physical activity and risk a heart attack, stroke, or damage to your body.

“When it comes to the cold, people often under-dress for the outdoors, because they don’t take into consideration the wind chill factor,” said Beth. “If it’s 15 degrees outside with 30 mph winds/wind gusts, it feels like -5 degrees, and if it’s 0 degrees outside with 20 mph winds/wind gusts, it feels like -22 degrees. At a wind chill of -22 degrees, it takes just 30 minutes for exposed skin to become frostbit, so dress for the wind chill effect and not the temperature!”

To see how a specific temperature and wind speed together create a wind chill factor, see the “Wind Chill Chart” below.

For additional information on Winter Weather Safety Tips, contact Kenosha County Emergency Management at (262) 605-7900.

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