Winter Storm Dangers

Winter is a dangerous time, simply by nature. However, winter storms present an even greater danger to people, animals, and property. Some of these dangers can be guarded against in the event of an unexpected winter storms. Others can be dealt with after the storm has passed.

One of the most dangerous things about being caught in an unexpected snow storm is the possibility of hypothermia. This is a condition that exists when the temperature of the body drops below approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms may include impaired speech, loss of motor function or motor control, memory lapses, exhaustion, drowsiness, or uncontrolled shivering.

Hypothermia can be treated by moving the person or animal into a warm environment, beginning with the trunk of the body. If possible, you should use your own body heat to help. Do not give anyone with hypothermia any caffeine or alcohol, as this could cause a worsening of his or her condition. Seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if the person seems to be improving.

Another common danger during a winter storm is frostbite. Occurring in both people and animals, frostbite is a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ears, or the nose. Other areas of the body may also be affected. Frostbite can lead to permanent damage in certain areas and, in some cases, may result in amputation.

Anyone with frostbite should be taken to see a doctor. In the meantime, you can help the victim by ensuring a warm environment. Do not touch the frostbitten flesh.

Wind-chill is extreme in the winter months. Biting winds can make the temperature seem even colder, and can increase the risk of both frostbite and hypothermia. Extreme winds can freeze your skin in a matter of minutes. When the wind is blowing in the winter, make sure you bundle up. Cover all exposed skin, and ensure that your mouth and nose are both well covered. This will help prevent you from breathing super-chilled air.

When winter storms hit, one of the first things to suffer is road conditions. Heavy snow might limit visibility and make the roads increasingly slippery. This creates the perfect set of conditions for you to simply drive off the road and straight into the ditch. In addition, blowing and drifting snow can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, especially if the drift is large.

To stay safe in your vehicle during a winter storm, drive slowly and leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles. This will give you additional time to break. In the event that the weather deteriorates into something truly dangerous, pull off the road at the closest safe area and wait.

Property isn’t safe from winter storms. Heavy snowfalls, especially wet snowfalls, can cause roofs to collapse in some cases. High winds may cause downed power lines or even cause a tree to fall on vehicles, buildings, or possibly across roads. These situations are almost impossible to avoid, and in most cases, you will need professional help to repair the damage after the fact.

Thankfully, most communities will issue weather warnings or a local storm watch before a major storm hits. In this case, you should prepare for power outages and limited travel. Stock up on bottled water and foods you can eat without resorting to using the stove. If you do lose power, consider placing your frozen foods outside to stay cold until power is restored. Try to have enough supplies to last for up to three days.

Winter storms can be frightening and dangerous. The best advice is to simply stay indoors and avoid travel whenever possible. Listen to the radio (have batteries in case of a power outage) for regular updates on the storm, and above all, stay safe.