Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winter Weather Survival Strategies 
by Regional Forecaster Ben Redmon 
of Michigan Weather Watchers

Understanding Winter Weather Terms

  • Winter Storm Watch: Severe winter conditions such as heavy snow and/or ice are possible within 12 to 48 hours. Prepare and make plans now.
  • Winter Storm/Ice Storm/Lake Effect Snow Warning: Severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin. Stay indoors.
  • Blizzard Warning: Snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life threatening wind chill. Seek refuge immediately.
  • Winter Weather Advisories: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. Exercise caution, especially while driving. Winter Weather Advisories can be issued for a number of winter weather elements including snow, freezing rain, and lake effect snow.
  • Wind Chill Advisory: Wind chill temperatures of -15ºF to -24ºF for Southern Lower Michigan, -20ºF to -29ºF for Northern Lower Michigan, and -25ºF to -34ºF for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
  • Wind Chill Warning: Wind chill temperatures of -25ºF or colder for Southern Lower Michigan, -30ºF or colder for Northern Lower Michigan, and -35ºF or colder for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Thanks for reading these this year. Hope you have learned a lot. I look foward to this coming winter. Make sure you check back here often and also check out my FB page Michigan Weather Watcher daily, or even two or three times a day. Any winter weather pictures and reports are always welcome. Thanks for all of your reports I enjoy reading them and helping informing everyone on the conditions!

How Cold and Snow May Affect Your Health

The wind chill index is one tool that can help with decision making during the winter season. The National Weather Service wind chill index draws on the latest research in meteorology and human biomechanics.

For example, at an actual air temperature of 15 degrees, the effect of a 15 mph wind would be to make exposed skin react as if the temperature was zero. The more rapid loss of heat puts a person in danger of hypothermia or frostbite within a shorter period of time than would be expected without wind.

To avoid the excessive heat loss that comes with wind driven cold air, make sure to cover your head, face, and extremities. The fingers, toes, ear lobes and tip of the nose are especially susceptible to frostbite. One suffering from frostbite would experience a loss of feeling in those extremities, which would take on a white or pale appearance.
If symptoms of frostbite are detected, get medical help immediately. If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm the affected areas. However, if the person is showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.

Preparing Your Home for Winter Emergencies

Winter storms often cause power outages and loss of heat for periods of hours, or even days. Impassable roads and the loss of telephone service can further isolate your family.
Items you should have on hand to cope with such crises are high energy food, such as dried fruit, nuts or other high protein snacks, and food requiring no cooling or refrigeration. Extra medicine and baby items should also be stocked, along with first aid supplies.
An emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, or a generator can be a lifesaver, but can also turn deadly. These must be used with adequate ventilation, and all precautions should be taken to prevent fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors are valuable equipment that can prevent tragedy.
Do not forget extra batteries for flashlights and portable radios. Your information sources should include a NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio, for receipt of warning and advisory information in addition to continuous broadcast of current conditions and forecasts.

    Food and Safety Checklist

    Have a week’s worth of food and safety supplies. If you live far from other people, have more supplies on hand.
  • Drinking water
  • Canned/no-cook food (bread, crackers, dried fruits)
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Baby food and formula (if baby in the household)
  • Prescription drugs and other medicine
  • First-aid kit
  • Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to add traction on walkways
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered lamps or lanterns
    (To prevent the risk of fire, avoid using candles.)
  • Download this checklist. Learn more about Adobe Acrobat Reader 

    Water Checklist

    Keep a water supply. Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes break.
  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Keep the indoor temperature warm.
  • Allow more heated air near pipes. Open kitchen cabinet doors under the kitchen sink.
  • If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer.
  • If you cannot thaw your pipes, or if the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home.
  • Have bottled water on hand.
  • In an emergency—if no other water is available—snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow.
  • Download this checklist. Learn more about Adobe Acrobat Reader 

    Heating Checklist

  • Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
    • Fireplace with plenty of dry firewood or gas log fireplace
    • Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters
  • Check with your local fire department to make sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
  • Use electric space heaters with
    • automatic shut-off switches and
    • nonglowing elements.
  • Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
  • Have the following safety equipment:
    • Chemical fire extinguisher
    • Smoke alarm in working order (Check once a month and change batteries once a year.)
    • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:
    • Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet.
    • Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.
    • Use individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords to plug in other appliances.

Winter Survival Kits

While driving through heavy snowfall can be dangerous, trying to shovel it can sometimes have fatal consequences.   It is easy to overexert your body when shoveling snow, since the combination of cold air and hard physical labor puts added stress on the heart.  Pace yourself carefully if you must shovel.  Pushing a car or walking through deep snow can also cause overexertion.
Do not forget extra batteries for flashlights and portable radios. Your information sources should include a NOAA All- Hazards Weather Radio for reception of warning and advisory information, in addition to continuous broadcast of current conditions and forecasts.
For additional information on a winter weather survival kit, please contact your local emergency manager.


Cold Weather and Hypothermia

Michigan residents are always susceptible to the cold weather common every winter. The temperatures do not have to plummet below zero to create a life-threatening situation. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 45 people in Michigan died due the exposure to the cold in 2009. This makes cold weather the number one weather-related killer in Michigan.
It is especially important to remember to avoid exposure to cold, wet weather for lengthy periods of time. As colder air invades the state later in the season, the dangers will increase. Always dress for conditions and do not stray too far from shelter for any extended period of time.
Look for the warning signs of hypothermia such as uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If medical care is not available, begin warming the person slowly, warming the body core first. Get the person into dry clothing, and wrap him or her in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not warm the extremities first. This drives the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.

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