Extreme winter weather is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people in the U.S. each year, primarily due to traffic accidents, fires from improper use of heaters, overexertion and exposure.
Familiarize yourself with the following terms to stay alert and prepared:
- Winter Weather Advisory - cold, ice and snow are expected.
- Winter Storm Watch - severe winter weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible within the next day or two.
- Winter Storm Warning - severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin.
- Blizzard Warning - heavy snow and strong winds will produce a blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill.
- Frost/Freeze Warning - below freezing temperatures are expected.
Winter storm tips:
- Make sure your emergency supply kit is stocked and winter storm ready.
- Buy rock salt to melt ice on walkways and sand to improve traction.
- Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel. Regular fuel sources may be cut off.
- Keep emergency heating equipment and fuel (a gas fireplace, wood burning stove, kerosene heater, or fireplace) so you can keep at least one room of your house warm enough to be livable.
- If you have a fireplace, store a supply of firewood.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure your family knows how to use them.
- Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply. Insulate walls, attics, doors and windows.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic.
- Do not overexert yourself or work outside for extended periods of time.
Flooding - Flooding caused by heavy rains is dangerous and can occur without warning (Flash floods). Floods are particularly dangerous because they can wash away vehicles and mobile homes and cause extensive damage to property. Individuals who can't swim, the elderly and those in need of special assistance are particularly vulnerable to drowning. Also a serious threat during a flood, are downed power lines. Those could fall into pools of water and cause electrocutions in homes and on public streets.
Before a flood:
- Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home. Check with your local emergency management to determine if you are in a floodplain area.
- Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding
- Install check valves in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into your home.
- Construct barriers (levees, beams, sandbags, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the building.
- Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
- Keep an adequate supply of food, candles and drinking water in case you are trapped inside your home.
During a flood:
- Seek higher ground. Do not wait for instructions.
- Be aware of flash flood areas such as canals, streams, drainage channels.
- Be ready to evacuate. If time allows bring outside furniture indoors. Move essential items to upper floors.
- If instructed, turn off main valves and switches. Avoid electrical equipment if you are wet.
- If you must leave your home, do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. Use a stick to test depth.
- Do not try to drive over a flooded road. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and seek an alternate route.
After a flood:
- Avoid floodwaters. Do not let children play in the water.
- Be aware of areas where water has receded. Roadways may have weakened and could collapse.
- Avoid down power lines and muddy waters where power lines may have fallen.
- Return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
- Discard food that may have been contaminated.
- Check on sewage systems. If damaged, these can be a serious hazard.
Tornados - Storms can develop quickly and can occur with little to no warning. Heavy winds and lightning caused by storms can cause extended power outages, uprooted trees, landslides, and downed or broken utility lines. Additionally, heavy rains can cause flash floods.
Tornado Safety Tips
- Have a pre-designated safety spot.
- Go to the lowest level possible in a structure.
- Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
- Avoid windows and glass.
- In a basement stay under the center support beam, a stairwell or heavy piece of furniture for protection from falling debris. Stay out of corners; debris often collects in corners.
- If you have no area below ground level, use a hallway, closing doors off to outside rooms. A small interior room (bathroom or closet) away from outside walls and windows would be preferable to large rooms or rooms with outside walls.
Outside or in homes of modular construction:
- Get to a safe shelter if possible. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. If caught in the open, leave a vehicle and go to a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine. Lie flat and cover your head.
- Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned
While watching the weather, listen for:
- Tornado Watch
- Tornado Warning
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning
During the storm:
- Avoid handling metal, electrical equipment, telephones, bathtubs, water faucets and sinks, because electric current from lightening can travel through wires and pipes
- If you are outside, take cover in a stable facility. Avoid taking shelter under trees
- Tune in to local TV/radio channels for emergency advisories and instructions
- Avoid walking through water that has seeped in your home - it may contain hazardous materials
- If you are asked to evacuate your home, disconnect all electrical appliances
- Avoid downed power lines and broken gas lines.
After the storm:
- Assess your immediate environment
- Report fallen trees, flooded streets or damaged public utilities to proper department
- Stay tuned to local weather stations for updated information
Extreme Cold - Kansas City is becoming famous for its cold winters. The already cold weather can be made to feel even colder with wind-chill factors that can drive temperatures well below zero, causing possible frostbite or hypothermia.
In extreme cold:
- Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing
- Wear mittens instead of gloves
- Wear water-repellant clothing
- Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs
- Wear a hat
- Make sure small children, infants and the elderly stay warm. They are much more vulnerable to the cold weather.
- Take advantage of city public park facilities and heated stores and malls.
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages
- Where possible, try and keep one room in your home heated to 70 degrees.
- Eat high energy foods and drink warm beverages.
- Beware of over-exertion; shoveling snow or pushing disabled cars can be very demanding, and should only be done by individuals in good health.
Safe heating tips:
- Electric heaters can be hazardous and should be used with extreme caution to prevent shock, fire and burns. Follow the usage instructions carefully and keep clothing and blankets clear of any heating elements.
- Be very careful in using fireplaces, making sure flues are clear. Proper ventilation is essential and charcoal should not be used indoors at all!
- Gas ovens and burners should never be used to heat your home.
Safe use of the car in cold weather:
- Make sure your car is in good operating condition before using it in extreme cold.
- Keep water out of your gas tank by keeping the tank as full as possible.
- Maintain a storm kit in your car with such items as blankets; extra clothing; jumper cables; a flashlight; high-calorie, non-perishable food; and matchers or a lighter.
- Drive with care and plan your trip. If cold, snowy or icy conditions exceed your ability or your car's ability, don't travel.