At the first mention of a winter freeze, traffic and commerce in North Central Texas freeze, too. Why? While colder weather brings a welcome change, most people aren’t prepared for it. Freezing rain, snow and ice can make for great outdoor fun - but can also result in car accidents, hypothermia, and carbon monoxide poisoning from defective heating units.
In addition, a few inches of ice can bring down power lines that result in days-long outages. And on the road, that quick trip to grandma’s can turn into an impromptu camp-out in the car. But don’t get your mittens in a twist. With a little planning, you can protect yourself and enjoy some frosty fun!
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.
Extreme cold often accompanies a winter storm. 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 vary across different areas of the United States. In areas like Ellis County unaccustomed to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered "extreme cold." Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat.
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 pedestrians. Ensure you have your Utilities’ Company Emergency Point of if you have a power outage.
DURING A WINTER STORM
The following are guidelines for what you should do during a winter storm or under conditions of extreme cold:
- Listen to your radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.
- Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Avoid overexertion.
- Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include:
- Apparent exhaustion
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
- Uncontrollable shivering
If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first, and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
- Remain indoors if possible. If you must go out, dress to fit the weather, with layered, wind-resistant clothing, a hat, and gloves or mittens to protect yourself against frostbite.
- If you must perform work outside, take frequent breaks to warm up and avoid overexertion.
- Have emergency heating equipment approved for indoor use and appropriate fuel for it. Emergency heating equipment includes kerosene or propane heaters and wood stoves.
- Make sure to wrap exterior pipes and drip your interior faucets when the temperatures dip below 33 degrees to keep pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes can cause major flooding damage to your home once the pipes thaw out.
- Have emergency lighting in case the power goes out: flashlights or lanterns with a supply of batteries or fuel.
- Keep an emergency supply of ready-to-eat non-perishable food and an emergency supply of water on hand.
- Listen to your radio or TV to obtain weather and emergency information. Have a battery-powered radio with spare batteries in case your electricity goes off.
- Travel only if absolutely necessary. If you must travel, do so in daylight. Have emergency supplies in your vehicle.
- Avoid driving on overpasses and bridges—they often freeze more quickly than roads.
- Winterize your car. Flush the cooling system, replace the coolant, replace the wiper blades, etc. Create a Winter Weather Kit in case you’re stranded.
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First-aid kit and manual
- White distress flag
- Tire repair kit, booster/jumper cables, pump and flares
- Bottled water and non-perishable food items
- Seasonal supplies to combat weather conditions like blankets and gloves
- Local maps
- Take extra precautions to ensure the well-being of your animals by providing plenty of water and food, as well as appropriate shelter.
KNOW THE TERMS
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a winter storm hazard:
- Black Ice: Black ice is caused by extremely cold rain droplets forming a film of clear ice on roadways (it’s called “black” because you can see the black asphalt through it). It’s hard to see and extremely slick, so look out for this hazard when the temperature drops near freezing!
- Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
- Frost/Freeze Warning: Below freezing temperatures are expected.
- Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
- Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
- Winter Storm Watch: A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information.