It’s Winter, Are You Prepared For Winter Weather Challenges?

Winter Weather Safety | Image

The season of winter is barely two weeks old and so far we haven’t had what we would call “real winter weather.” It will come sooner or later, but are you prepared for it?

What you need is a plan for whenever you get in your car in winter especially if you are going to be in or near the higher hills or the mountains. It can be so easy to jump into the car and head out without thinking about what could go wrong. The plan is to go from location A to location B neither one of which has inclement weather at the time. What isn’t planned for is a mechanical breakdown of your vehicle in an wide-opened area that is far away from any assistance. You could also be in a no service area rendering your cell phone useless.

Car Kit
Emergency Car Kit | Image by

Having an emergency kit in your car could be a lifesaver. Just some of the simple items that could save you would be a blanket, matches in a watertight container, highway flares, a snow shovel (there are small ones that fold up), and maybe even a couple of energy bars. There are many other items you could pack in your vehicle depending on the storage space available. To see each the information for each day click on the each link in this article as you read them and then click on the proper day you want.

Cold Weather Preparedness | Image by

There are also safety tips if you are caught outdoors or traveling. There are National Weather Service definitions that are very important to remember this time of the year. Some of the most important terms are: Wind Chill – Increased wind speeds accelerate heat loss from exposed skin, and the Wind Chill is a measure of this effect. As the wind speed increases and the temperature decreases the effect reaches dangerous levels. Frostbite – Human tissue damage caused by exposure to intense cold. Hypothermia – A rapid progressive mental and physical collapse that accompanies the lowering of body temperature.

Indoor Winter Safety Tips | Image by

Other very useful weather terminology  describes the winter weather bulletins that may be issued when winter weather dangers increase. A Winter Weather Advisory is issued when a low pressure system produces a combination of winter weather (snow, freezing, rain, sleet, etc.) that present a hazard but does not meet warning criteria. A Winter Storm Watch is issued when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. A Winter Storm Warning is issued when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice accumulations. A Blizzard Warning is issued when a winter storm produces sustained of frequent winds of 30 miles per hour or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to a quarter mile or less. These conditions are expected to prevail for a minimum of 3 hours. The National Weather Service issues these bulletins in stages from outlooks to advisories to watches and then finally the worst case being warnings. Knowing what each means when issued gives you the advantage on not needing a definition before figuring out what action needs to be taken.


Willamette River Flooding | Photo by

In winter we can get a snowfall followed by heavy rainfall which melts the snow quickly and produces Floods or Flash Floods. The terminology used regarding flood information is also very important to understand. Flash Flood Watch – conditions are favorable for flash flooding in and close to the watch area, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent. Flash Flood Warning – issued to inform the public, emergency management, and other cooperating agencies that flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely. Flood Watch – issued to inform the public, emergency management, and other cooperating agencies that current and developing hydrometeorological conditions are such that there is a threat of flooding, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent. Flood Warning – a release issued by the National Weather Service to inform the public of flooding along larger streams in which there is a serious threat to life or property. A flood warning will usually contain river stage (level) forecasts.

Tree Blown Down
My Neighbor’s Tree Blown Down 3/28/12| Photo by Tim Chuey

You should also be prepared to survive a Windstorm in the Pacific Northwest. The famous Columbus Day Storm of 1962 is an extreme example of what a windstorm is capable of doing. The best way to prepare for a windstorm is to remove any articles from your property that could get blown around. High winds can make a lawn chair or a trash barrel into a dangerous projectile that could smash through windows and possibly even walls. You also need to be prepared for possible power outages caused by downed trees on power lines.

Be Prepared
Be Prepared | Image by

The best way to end this article is to quote the motto of the Boy Scouts of America “Be Prepared.” I hope you learned something from this article, but more importantly you need to take actions which will keep you warm and safe this Winter.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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