Preparing For Winter Storms

When CAUGHT in a Winter Storm…Outside:

Do not eat snow:  It will lower your body temperature.  Melt it first.

 Find shelter:

• try to stay dry
• cover all exposed parts of the body.

No shelter:

• prepare a lean-to, wind-break, or snow cave for protection from the wind.
• build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
• place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat

Building A Snow Cave

1. Despite tales of grizzled old mountain men surviving by digging holes in the snow with their bare hands, you must have a snow shovel.   This is a prime reason snow caves aren’t a viable emergency shelter because when was the last time you carried a snow shovel on a routine winter outing?  So, if you can, carry a small snow shovel.

2. It is usually takes 2 to 6 hours of exhausting digging and excavating to build a snow cave but when completed is well worth the effort and can mean the difference between life and death!

3. It’s virtually impossible to stay dry building a snow cave.  If you manage not to soak yourself while groveling about on your hands and knees, then all that digging surely will soak your clothes with sweat.   Having a change of clothes is extremely beneficial.

4. Snow caves aren’t as warm as legend holds.   If it gets too warm inside, the walls run with water and the ceiling can collapse.   Still, a snow cave can keep you warmer than tent if you manage to build it without soaking yourself – thereby avoiding hypothermia – and you build it correctly.

5. Dig tag-team fashion.  One person rests while the other digs.  This reduces fatigue, as well as sweat buildup.

6. Try to dig from a standing position.   This also reduces fatigue and keeps you drier.

7. In soft snow, a big aluminum grain shovel is ideal.  In hard snow, the nylon/plastic/aluminum avalanche safety shovels are better.  With any shovel, avoid burying it and then prying back on the handle, otherwise you’ll snap the blade.

8. A snow saw is useful for cutting uniform snow blocks.

9. Take extra care to make the sleeping platform perfectly smooth and level. During the night, your body heat will help turn it into a bed of ice and any errant lumps will be quite apparent and uncomfortable.

In A Car Or Truck:

Stay in your car or truck.   Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat:

• open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
• make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.

Make yourself visible to rescuers:

• turn on the dome light at night when running engine.
• tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door.
• raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling.

Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

At Home Or In A Building:

Stay inside. When using ALTERNATIVE HEAT from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.:

• use fire safeguards.
• properly ventilate.

         No heat:

• close off unneeded rooms.
• stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
• cover windows at night.

Eat and drink.  Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.  Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.   Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.  Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.

Keep Ahead Of The Storm – Listen To Weather Radio For:


Severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, are possible within the next day or two. Prepare now!


Severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin in your area. Stay indoors!


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 conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, these situations should not become life- threatening.  The        greatest hazard is often to motorists.


Below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause significant damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees.  In areas unaccustomed to freezing temperatures, people who have homes without heat need to take added precautions.

Be Prepared Before The Storm Strikes

At Home And At Work:

Primary concerns are the potential loss of heat, power, telephone service, and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day.

Have available:

• Flashlight and extra batteries.
• Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information.  These may be your only links to the outside.
• Extra food and water.  High energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration is best.
• Extra medicine and baby items.
• First-aid supplies.
• Heating fuel.  Fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a severe winter storm.
• Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.
• Learn to use properly to prevent a fire.
• Have proper ventilation.
• Fire extinguisher and smoke detector.
• Test units regularly to ensure they are working properly.

In Cars And Trucks:

Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm!

• Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.

• blankets/sleeping bags
• flashlight with extra batteries
• first-aid kit
• knife
• high-calorie, non-perishable food
• extra clothing to keep dry
• a large empty can and plastic cover with tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes
• a smaller can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water
• sack of sand (or cat litter)
• shovel
• windshield scraper and brush
• tool kit
• tow rope
• booster cables
• water container
• compass and road maps

Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
Try not to travel alone.
Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes.

On The Farm:

Move animals to sheltered areas.  Shelter belts, properly laid out and oriented, are better protection for cattle than confining shelters, such as sheds.

• Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas.
• Have a water supply available.   Most animal deaths in winter storms are from dehydration.


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