According to the National Climatic Data Center, there were over 420 winter storms in Colorado last year resulting in 1 death and 3 weather related injuries. While it is fairly common for Coloradans to contend with the snow, it is equally important for us all to be prepared for the extreme circumstances. Please feel free to share the information found below.
The National Weather Service refers to Winter Storms as “The Deceptive Killers” because their effects can last beyond the storm. Hypothermia can result in lasting kidney, liver and pancreas problems. Frostbite can result in severe tissue damage requiring amputation. Additionally, there are indirect effects such as vehicle accidents, fires due to dangerous use of heaters, potential flooding, damage to buildings, and the economic impact. Fortunately, YOU can recognize those threats, have a plan, and be ready when the storm hits. When you are ready, you can enjoy a hot cup of chocolate by the fire or some fresh powder on the slopes!
Before the Storm
Know the warnings and have a battery-powered portable weather radio to receive emergency information. Listen for these National Weather Service terms:
Outlook: Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2-5 days. Stay tuned to local media for updates.
Watch: Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Prepare now!
Warning: Life-threatening severe weather conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Act now!
Advisory: Winter Weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If you are cautious, these situations should not be life threatening.
Keep enough food, clothing, prescription medicines, heat sources, water and first-aid supplies available to sustain you and your family including animals for at least 3 days.
During the Storm
It is best to wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in layers. The trapped air will help insulate and keep you warm. Half your body heat loss can be from the head, so wear a hat.
Remember, unless you have a wood burning fireplace, many household heat producers will not work without power. If you are without heat and power in your home, find a well insulated room, basements have natural earth insulation. Close off unneeded rooms, cover cracks with heavy material such as towels, and cover windows at night. Get cuddling, body heat can keep loved ones and animals warm. Make sure you eat enough food and stay hydrated.
If you get caught in a storm, stay in your vehicle, find shelter or build a snow cave. If in a car, run the engine about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm but make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and open a window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Every vehicle driver should have a winter car kit that includes items such as:
These items should be in addition to your regular emergency care kit that has items such as:
- A full tank of gas, never let your vehicle below a quarter tank when winter storms are approaching.
- Plenty of water, estimate you will be in your car for at least four times longer than you expect and prepare enough food and water for all passengers. Small containers of water are better as they will thaw out more quickly than a large container would.
- Winter boots, gloves, hat and clothing are all a must as well as a blanket for each passenger.
- Signals, flares, and/or LED light to identify your vehicle if you run off the road.
- Sand or kitty litter just in case you get stuck on an icy patch.
- Small sturdy shovel.
- Good ice scraper.
- Extra windshield wiper fluid, that magnesium chloride on the windshield can create chaos!
- Jumper cables
- Tow rope
- First aid supplies
- Cash and change for a payphone (if you can find one!)
- Cell phone charger
- Basic tools (screw driver, duct tape, adjustable crescent wrench)
Definitions from the National Weather Service
Black Ice: Slang reference to patchy ice on roadways or other transportation surfaces that cannot easily be seen.
In hydrologic terms, transparent ice formed in rivers and lakes.
Blizzard: (Abbreviation: BLZD) A blizzard means that the following conditions are expected to prevail for a period of 3 hours or longer:
- Sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles an hour or greater; and
- Considerable falling and/or blowing snow (i.e., reducing visibility frequently to less than ¼ mile)
Blizzard Warning: Issued for winter storms with sustained or frequent winds of 35 mph or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less. These conditions are expected to prevail for a minimum of 3 hours.
Ice Storm: An ice storm is used to describe occasions when damaging accumulations of ice are expected during freezing rain situations. Significant accumulations of ice pull down trees and utility lines resulting in loss of power and communication. These accumulations of ice make walking and driving extremely dangerous. Significant ice accumulations are usually accumulations of ¼" or greater.
Warning: A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.
Watch: A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so.
Wind Chill: Reference to the Wind Chill Factor; increased wind speeds accelerate heat loss from exposed skin, and the wind chill is a measure of this effect. No specific rules exist for determining when wind chill becomes dangerous. As a general rule, the threshold for potentially dangerous wind chill conditions is about -20°F.
Wind Chill Advisory: The National Weather Service issues this product when the wind chill could be life threatening if action is not taken. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state.
Wind Chill Factor: Increased wind speeds accelerate heat loss from exposed skin. No specific rules exist for determining when wind chill becomes dangerous. As a general rule, the threshold for potentially dangerous wind chill conditions is about -20°F.
Wind Chill Warning: The National Weather Service issues this product when the wind chill is life threatening. The criteria for this warning varies from state to state.
Winter Storm Warning: This product is issued by the National Weather Service when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice accumulations. The criteria for this warning can vary from place to place.
Winter Storm Watch: This product is issued by the National Weather Service when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulations, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. The criteria for this watch can vary from place to place.
Winter Weather Advisory: This product is issued by the National Weather Service 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.
American Red Cross chapter (www.redcross.org)
CO Trip (www.cotrip.org)
Local emergency managers (http://www.coemergency.com/p/sources.html )
National Weather Service office (www.nws.noaa.gov)
National Weather Service Severe Weather Summary Page http://forecast.weather.gov/hazards/?wfo=bou
Division of Emergency Management Fact Sheet