Winter storms are known as deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm, such as vehicle accidents caused by winter road conditions, improper use of heaters, and exposure/hypothermia. Severe winter weather includes freezing temperatures, freezing rain, ice, heavy snow and blizzards. Accumulation of ice or snow can knock down trees, power lines and structures causing power outages, utility disruptions and communication interruptions.

Before a Winter Storm

Winter storms typically have a 12-48 hour notice, so you have time to prepare.

  • Monitor your favorite weather app, and sign up for notifications if you haven’t already.
  • Make sure you have food and water available that you can access if the power goes out.
  • Keep warm clothing and blankets on hand.
  • Locate your flashlights, extra batteries, and portable phone chargers, and put them somewhere easy to access.
  • Check in with your friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they’ll be safe, too.
  • Listen to the local news stations and other weather sources for instructions if you need to drip your pipes or take any other precautions.

During a Winter Storm

Code Maroon (HSC Alert for the Health Science Center) will be used to issue information concerning university delays and cancellations.

  • Monitor local weather broadcasts and weather conditions.
  • Stay indoors and minimize travel. If you must travel, drive slowly and increase distance required for stopping.
  • Watch for downed trees and power lines.
  • Keep a full tank to prevent ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Never use a portable generator or operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in an enclosed space.

Frostbite vs. Hypothermia

Frostbite is occurring when you can’t feel your face, fingers, or toes. In addition, you may notice skin discoloration (like white or yellow patches) or texture changes (like a waxy feeling). If this is happening, go to a warm room immediately. Use body heat or soak in warm water.

Hypothermia refers to a very low body temperature. If your body temperature falls below 95 degrees, it is a life-threatening emergency. In addition to a low body temperature, you may also notice shivering, exhaustion, confusion or memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness, or difficulty with fine motor skills. If this is happening, go to a warm room immediately and call 9-1-1. While you wait for help to arrive, warm your body’s core first: your chest, neck, head, and groin areas. Make sure you are in dry clothing and wrapped in warm blankets that cover your head and neck.

What NOT to do if you are experiencing frostbite or hypothermia:

  • Don’t use a heating pad or very hot water to warm up. This may cause additional damage to your skin or nerves.
  • Don’t attempt to heat or massage the arms or legs as this can put stress on the heart.
  • Don’t use alcohol or tobacco products as these can hinder your body’s ability to properly circulate the blood and start the rewarming process.