The following are terms you may hear, and what they mean, when forecasters are talking about winter weather storms.
- Winter Storm Outlook – Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2 to 5 days.
- Winter Weather Advisory – Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.
- Winter Storm Watch – Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.
- Winter Storm Warning – Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in warned areas should take precautions immediately (American Red Cross, 2015).
Unfortunately, governmental agencies still recommend only a three day supply of emergency food, water and other necessities. Granted, they do state “at least a three day supply” is recommended. The mantra they all sing about a three day supply of emergency supplies is outdated, whether they believe it or not.
However, they need to get in line with reality in our opinion, because based on past events it can take up to three days to get the word out there even is a crisis. This may be overstating it, but the point is a three day supply is probably not going to be enough. One week should be the minimum amount you have on hand.
Remarkably some of the emergency agencies during past events shuttered their doors due to the weather emergency and simply did not even attempt to reach the affected areas. Once again you are on your own. It can take longer than three days for the road crews to reach your street so you can get out to the grocery store.
Planning Organization and Yes You Need Some Common Sense
Organization is important, and one of the first things you should do is to gather your important documents. Insurance papers, phone numbers, important addresses and so on can be bundled and placed in weather resistant packaging. Bundle the documents so they can be carried with you in the event you have to evacuate.
Gather information by television and radio and avoid rumors from social media sites. The biggest problem with some, if not most of the sites is that much of the information is not vetted. You simply have no way of knowing whether something is true or not, so avoid reacting to any information or rumors posted on a friend’s page for example.
You cannot run out the same day the storm is predicted, and expect to get what you need. Meteorologists know days in advance if a storm is likely or even possible, but this should not make any difference to you, because it is winter, and you should assume, you would get winter weather, severe winter weather that may leave you house bound. Expect it to happen, and do not wait for forecasters to tell you. Be ready for it.
Unless there is some emergency other than the storm that would cause you to drive, then plan to stay off the roads. Leaving in a snowstorm in your vehicle only creates another opportunity for things to go wrong. With that being said however, keep you vehicles’ fuel tank full during the winter months and always have emergency supplies in the vehicle above and beyond what is kept in the home. Each emergency cache of supplies whether they are at the office, home, buried somewhere, or in your vehicle, should all be stand alone caches capable of sustaining you during any crisis.
Everyone loves a checklist. A box can be checked and then people can rest assured they are ready, because they have checked all the boxes. If only it were that easy.
Every situation is different however, so you start with the basics that are on every list like food, water, medical supplies, medicines, candles, flashlights, batteries, lanterns, portable toilets, or buckets, propane camp stoves, gel heat cans and entertainment for the kids. Once the basics are checked off then you look at the bigger picture.
Heavy snow means weight on roofs, and tree limbs. Do you have the means to remove snow from your roof to keep it from collapsing? A snow rake may need to go on your list.
Can you cut up limbs or trees that have fallen across the driveway or even against the home, or on the roof? Maybe a chainsaw and fuel for it should be on the check list. What about ice melt for those icy sidewalks and back steps, add and check off.
What about a snow blower or a good snow shovel, are they are the list. A foot of snow in the driveway means you cannot get out of the driveway, and emergency responders may not be able to get to the front door easily if there is an emergency. Snow shovel check it off.
Snow sleds are not just for kids. The sleds can be used to pull supplies, pull firewood from the stack out back, or to pull groceries home from the store. Put sleds on the check list, and add some paracord so you can attach it to the sled.
If you think about it, you know what you need to survive a week in your home, but people tend to put things off, because they do not want to spend money on supplies or items they may not use. You will use whatever emergency supplies you buy though. There are more than enough emergencies to go around. You will need the supplies at some point.
You should be ready at all times and not just think about getting ready when you hear the meteorologists say a big one is headed your way.
American Red Cross. (2015). Retrieved 2015, from http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm