Winter Storms & Blizzards [Preparation Tips & Checklists]
Weather-related deaths have risen 41 percent since 2014, and winter storms specifically are a major threat in our nation. In the United States in 2019 alone, damages caused by winter storms and blizzards cost over $7,400 million to repair. Preparing for winter storms is essential in many states. Our winter storm preparation guide encourages you to make sure your home is insulated so that you don't have to rely on dangerous heating elements. Space heaters account for 40 percent of all home fires between December and February.
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- Winter conditions were one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in 2018
- Preparing your home, family, and vehicle for winter storms is vital to stay safe and healthy amidst inclement weather
- The 15 U.S. cities with the highest annual snowfall receive over 40 inches of snow each year
- Increasing your auto insurance coverage for winter could save you big time if a blizzard strikes
As fall quickly draws to a close and winter peeks its head just around the corner, you're not alone if you're scrambling to get your home and family ready for snow season. From checking to make sure your home insurance policy is up to date to making sure your pipes are ready for the first freeze, there's a lot to do.
With the holidays and a bright New Year fast approaching, it's also important to make sure everyone stays safe and prepared for the winter storms, blizzards, and arctic blasts that will soon be bombarding residents across the United States. We're here to help with this comprehensive guide to winter weather safety.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), weather-related fatalities have spiked 41 percent since 2014. The NSC also reported that winter conditions were one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in 2018.
Also last year, winter storms were the second-most dangerous weather event responsible for the most injuries in the United States. Not only can winter storms cause significant personal injury and potentially death, but the havoc that blizzards can wreak on your home and vehicles is not to be underestimated.
Are you ready to stay safe and healthy when winter storms strike this year? If not, you've come to the right place.
Our winter storm preparation guide will provide you with the essential readiness steps you and your family need to take as you head into this winter season. Below you will also find must-know data regarding historical winter weather trends to ensure you're prepared when snow and ice hit your city.
Winter Readiness Tips for Your Home and Car
It's important to understand that there are several variations of winter storm warnings you might encounter — and each has a different meaning. According to the Red Cross, winter storm warnings fall into the following categories:
- Winter storm outlook: Winter storms may be imminent within two to five days.
- Winter weather advisory: Winter weather may prove disruptive and present notable risk. Caution is advised to prevent danger to life and limb.
- Winter storm watch: Winter storms may be imminent within 36 to 48 hours. Residents in the storm's path should stay abreast of storm updates and evaluate their plan in the likely event of adverse weather.
- Winter storm warning: Serious winter storms have already started or are imminent within the next 24 hours. Conditions are classified as life-threatening and residents in the storm's path should immediately take relevant safety measures.
In our research, blizzards were one severe storm not associated with a reduction of fatal crashes. Always be safe! Don't wait another day to learn the vital steps needed to winterize your home, vehicles, and prepare for freezing blasts with your precious pets. Whether you've lived with snow and sleet during the wintertime all your life or just moved to a colder climate, here's what you need to know.
Getting Your Home Ready for Cold Weather
Winterizing your home doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out ordeal. In fact, you should be able to completely winterize your home in a weekend. Follow these ten vital tips to make sure your home is in tip-top shape when winter rears its head.
#1 - Prepare Those Pipes
If the weather drops below freezing, any water inside your pipes will freeze and expand. The pressure on our pipes could cause them to fracture and burst — which is a mess no one wants to deal with in the dead of winter. Pipes can also rupture if a piece of ice gets lodged and increases pressure buildup. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that faucets be left dripping slightly in extreme cold to avoid the devastating destruction a burst pipe could inflict on your home.
Before winter hits, be sure to drain your sprinkler systems and outdoor faucets. You'll also want to detach your outdoor hoses to be stored until spring.
One of the best ways to retain heat inside your pipes and help ensure you're not stuck taking icy showers when temperatures drop is to insulate your pipes with pre-slit foam. Not only that, but you could save on energy costs by increasing the efficiency of your pipes. It's easy to pick up insulating foam at your local hardware store. Cut it to the size of your pipes, wrap the pipes, and use duct tape to secure the foam.
#2 - Stop Ice Damage in Its Tracks
When a snowstorm strikes and snow collects on your roof, heat can infiltrate from inside your home and melt the snow deposits. The snow usually melts and travels to the edge of the roof, where it ices over again, creating an icicle barricade. If the rest of the snow on your roof melts and hits this barricade, the only place it might have left to go is through cracks in your home. Then, you could have a major leak on your hands. And leaks mean water damage. To avoid this, you'll want to take the following precautions before winter commences:
- Clear out your downspouts and gutters
- Clear soffit vents on your eaves
- Seal any areas where air could travel to your attic, including light fixtures, vent pipes, and exhaust fans
If you've had damage or issues with ice damage previously, it could be worth the investment to retain a roofer to put a heat cable on your eaves to thaw the ice from the get-go.
#3 - Seal Cracks and Air Leaks
Ice damage isn't your only concern with winterizing your home. You want to make sure you and your family stay nice and warm all winter long.
Seal any gaps around your doors and windows. Weatherstripping can also be especially helpful to cut your energy bill during the winter and keep you comfortable inside your house.
Depending on the area you live in, having storm doors and windows installed could be prudent. You'll just want to make sure your screens are taken out and stored away for spring before the storm doors and windows are put in.
#4 - Check Your Chimney and Fireplace
Before you snuggle in your favorite chair with a book in front of a crackling fireplace blaze, you'll want to have a professional inspect your chimney and fireplace. Chimney fires during the winter are all too common, but a professional sweep could check your flue and make sure your chimney is clean and ready for the cold months ahead.
#5 - Get Your Furnace Inspected
Winter is certainly not the time you want your furnace to go on the fritz.
"Many energy experts talk about the importance of switching out your furnace filter or cleaning it, but people still don't seem to pay enough attention to it," said Matthias Alleckna, an energy industry analyst with Energy Rates, a company that helps consumers find the best rates for electricity and gas. He explained, "A clean filter will enable your HVAC system to work more efficiently and will reduce your energy consumption by around 15 percent."
A clean filter is also a health concern, particularly if you live in an area with brutal winters and you're unable to get outside much. What's more, improving your home's energy efficiency could prove to be a valuable investment in the future resale of your home.
"Having an energy-efficient, winter-ready home can turn out to be an investment in case you decide to sell your property," Alleckna added. "According to a recent study in the UK, most homebuyers are willing to pay more for an energy-efficient home."
By taking steps before the onset of cold weather to ensure your furnace is in good operational order, you can rest assured that you and your family will stay nice and warm all winter long.
#6 - Don't Forget Insulation
Whether it's fiberglass insulation in your attic or foam sealant, insulating your house of drafts and gaps to stop cold air and leaks dead in their tracks won't just keep you comfortable— you could enjoy big savings on your energy bill too.
"When it comes to winter prepping tips, it's impossible not to think about heating coasts and how much it can increase during colder month," Alleckna said. "In such a scenario, we need to pay special attention to insulation. Insulation protects your home from the outside temperature, meaning that the warm air stays inside and that the cold air can't get it. Well-insulated houses spend 10-20 percent less on heating than others."
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) explains that attic insulation should be a major priority for homeowners to enjoy energy savings. The DOE advises that you have at least 12 inches of cellulose or fiberglass insulation in your attic.
#7 - Dress For The Cold
Did you know? You can actually cut your heating bill by dressing warm and toasty for winter?
Matthias Alleckna says, "This isn't about wearing boots or a heavy jacket, but wearing more sweaters, socks and comfy outfits inside." In fact, by wearing warmer clothes inside, you may not be as easily tempted to crank up the thermostat. He said, "Lowering your thermostat for approximately eight hours a day can reduce your energy bills from 5 to 15 percent."
So, if you want to turn that thermostat down a few degrees to save on your energy bill this winter, just remember to grab your favorite sweater or onesie first.
#8 - Prune Low-Hanging Trees
There's nothing that can put a damper on a magical winter wonderland quite like an overladen tree branch crashing down on your car or through a window.
"To protect your property, prep your home before winter storm season," says Roslyn at Finder. She continues, "Start by cleaning up anything that could damage your house during windy weather, including old tree limbs and light patio furniture. Clear your gutters and check your drains to prevent water damage or flooding."
If you have low overhanging branches near your driveway, windows, or roof, you'll definitely want to prune those before snow and ice hit too.
#9 - Change the Batteries on Your Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors
There is an alarming prevalence of house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning cases during the winter, due to the fact that residents frequently run boilers, heating equipment, and furnaces incessantly in an effort to retain heat in the home.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has reported an increase in specific types of fires during the very cold winter months. According to the NFPA, December, January, and February are the months with the highest incidence of heating-related fires, with space heaters factoring into 40 percent of home fires.
Therefore, always check and if needed, change, the batteries on your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors as part of your winterization process.
#10 - Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit Handy
Last, but certainly not least, purchase or make your own 72-hour emergency kit filled with water, food, and other essentials you'll need in case of a serious blizzard. Check out the video above from YouTube channel The Melea Show to find out how to put together your very own 72-hour kit on a budget.
As long as you're gathering the essentials, you'll also want to make plans to protect and store important documents and valuable belongings. Critical documents will include insurance policies, financial records, and titles.
Valuable belongings will include anything of high monetary or personal value such as art, fine jewelry, personal mementos, family photos, and collectibles.
Winterizing Your Vehicle
Now that your house is all set for winter, what about your vehicle? Preparing your vehicle for emergencies is one of the most crucial aspects of your winter preparedness, as your vehicle's readiness for storms and blizzards ahead could truly make a life-or-death difference to your safety and well being.
"The leading cause of death during winter storms is transportation accidents," shares Lauren Fix of CarCoachReports.com. "Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter driving."
Check out the video below by Engineering Explained containing six helpful tips to get your car ready for the winter ahead.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is a non-profit organization that independently tests and certifies auto technicians across the country. The following are among ASE's top tips to help car owners prepare their vehicle for winter:
- Flush and refill your car's cooling system when recommended. Typically a half and half water and antifreeze solution are advised.
- You should have a professional technician check the condition of your vehicle's clamps, hoses, and belts regularly (check your car manual to ensure compliance with service schedules).
- Make sure any engine or driveability problems are promptly handled by a trusted repair specialist.
- Switch out any dirty filters (i.e. PCV, fuel, and air) to ensure your engine runs on optimal efficiency.
- Make sure your car's defroster and heater are functioning properly.
- Have a professional technician check that your battery is in correct working order (you can conduct a routine check but professional equipment is needed to identify a weak battery).
- Have your car's exhaust system checked out for any issues or potential leaks, as fumes could prove dangerous and deadly.
- Check all bulbs and replace burnt out lights
- Have a professional check your brakes and transmission intermittently to avoid any surprise repairs in the future.
- Pack a vehicle emergency kit in your car in case you're ever caught in a blizzard in your vehicle, with essential items such as blankets, boots, gloves, a flashlight, batteries, car charger, snacks, etc.
- Check the cupping, wearing, and tread of your tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Not only could worn-out tires be a real hazard, but they decrease fuel efficiency.
Ensuring your tires are up to par for wintry roads is one of the single most important steps you can take to prepare for arctic blasts. Laura Adams, Senior Safety & Education Analyst for DriversEd.com says,
“According to AAA, winter storms are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 fatalities every year. If you drive where roads often get covered in ice and snow, the best tip to prepare is to have four winter tires on your vehicle, with at least 6/32 tread depth. Even having brand new all-season tires may not give you enough grip when driving on snow."
Adams advises that it isn't enough to purchase all-season or winter tires for the front or rear wheels. In fact, mixing tires could be downright dangerous.
"...[D]on’t skimp and just get two winter tires. Putting them on the front of a front-wheel-drive vehicle can make it more dangerous and prone to spinning out on ice and snow. Only putting winter tires on the back of a rear-wheel-drive car can also make it unsafe and difficult to turn in snow. So, either get a full set of winter tires or keep four all-season tires on your vehicle this winter."
Clearing your vehicle of ice and snow is of equal importance to make sure your tires are up to the challenge of slippery roadways.
Experts warn that allowing ice and snow to accumulate on your vehicle could prove extremely hazardous because it decreases your visibility to fellow motorists.
Adams also cautions drivers to start their car and run the heater before preparing to embark on winter roads.
"Warming up the interior before using the defroster prevents the windshield from getting foggy, and it also helps you de-ice the exterior.”
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How to Prepare Your Family for Winter Weather
As weather temperatures plummet, ensuring your whole family from grandparents to the littlest ones to your precious pets are prepared is crucial. Keep on reading for our top tips to stay safe and healthy this winter.
Winter Safety for Seniors and Older Adults
With the onset of ice, sleet, snow, and bone-chilling temperatures outside, it's important to take additional safety measures to help elderly family and friends stay safe. As the weather temperatures outside plummets, older adults may be put at increased risk of injuries from slip and falls, frostbite, and hypothermia.
To avoid dangers falls in winter weather, older adults should exert increased caution and if possible, avoid wet walkways which could be covered in ice. It may be a worthwhile investment to purchase snow boots feature non-skid soles.
For individuals who use a cane, an ice pick cane tip to provide an improved grip may also be advisable. Older adults may be in danger of hypothermia if they are out in the extreme cold for a prolonged period. Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Difficulty walking
- Decreased heart rate or trouble breathing
- Ashy skin
- Extreme exhaustion
For seniors and older residents who live in regions where temperatures drop extremely low in the wintertime, it is vital to stay inside or only venture out for short periods. It is equally important to stay warm and dry to prevent hypothermia — which means layers (think thermals) while indoors and a coat, gloves, hat, scarf, and boots when outside. You may be in danger of frostbite if exposed to extremely cold temperatures.
Frostbite is skin damage which in some cases, may penetrate the bone. The nose, cheeks, ears, chin, fingers, and toes are the most vulnerable to frostbite as these are typically exposed to the open air. Numbness, ashy, or waxy skin may all be indications of frostbite.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know as frostbite, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. You may also run warm water over the frostbitten area.
Winter Safety for People with Disabilities
For individuals who live with disabilities, wintertime can pose additional hazards. Below are the top safety considerations for residents with disabilities to navigate winter weather safely:
- Wear plenty of layers when going outside. Consider wearing clothing featuring moisture-wicking materials to keep your skin warm and dry. Proper outerwear and non-skid snow boots are a must in subzero temperatures.
- Always wear gloves and bring a backup pair. In case your go-to gloves get soaked, having a second pair with you will keep your fingers warm and safe from hypothermia or frostbite.
- Wear your sunscreen. You heard that right, sunscreen is not just a summer staple. The sun reflecting on snow could actually cause sunburn, so use your trusted SPF sunscreen if you plan on leaving the house.
- Prepare your wheelchair for the winter season. Wheelchair users may wish to have snow tires installed on their device to safeguard against icy pavements and walkways. It's also a good idea to pack a small emergency kit with items such as bottled water, an energy bar, gloves, and cat litter for traction if you encounter ice.
- Get your dog ready. If you have a service dog, you'll want to make sure your faithful friend is equally prepared for a wintry mix. Before you take your dog for a walk, always apply paw wax, as sidewalks and other surfaces where salt has been laid to de-ice could pose a menace to strong, healthy paw pads.
You should also have specific plans in place in the event a winter weather event causes a power outage or other emergency. This means stocking up on non-perishables, having your emergency contact list in place, and ensuring you have a backup generator or other power source.
It may be prudent to discuss emergency protocols with your primary care doctor to handle treatments, medication refills, and any other processes which may be impacted if a power outage occurs. If applicable, consider speaking with your utility provider to discuss being added to their life-sustaining equipment roster.
Winter Safety for Parents and Children
Parents of young children know just how much fun wintertime playing can be for kids, as the prospect of snowman building, skating, snowmobiling, and snowboarding draws closer. Some general safety tips are as follows:
- When children are playing outside, check intermittently to ensure they are keeping dry and warm.
- Children shouldn't ever play outside alone and kids under the age of eight should also be under the supervision of an adult.
- Children should never play outside in severe weather such as a snowstorm.
- Young children should go indoors regularly to drink something warm.
- Young children should be advised to keep away from snowblowers, snowplows, and refrain from putting their tongues on cold metal.
- Young children should be advised to enjoy winter play well away from fences, roads, and water.
- If temperatures are between 13 and 31 degrees Fahrenheit, children should go indoors every 20 to 30 minutes.
- If the outside wind chill is 13 degrees or under, children should play indoors as remaining outside could pose a risk of frostbite.
Also, avid snowmobilers should be sure to look into snowmobiling insurance before they take to the slopes this winter season.
Below are some specific safety considerations to help parents monitor childcare during winter weather and bone-chilling temperatures.
Children should always wear multiple layers when playing outside. It's better to have to remove a layer than be a layer short. After playing outside, you should always remove children's boots and wet clothing right away. Body heat is frequently lost through the head, so children should keep their ears and head covered at all times to stay warm and prevent frostbite.
If children will be playing outside in snowy and wet conditions, they should wear waterproof boots. Mittens are generally warmer than gloves. For very young children, velcro should be used in place of drawstrings on winter apparel, and a neck warmer is advisable in lieu of a scarf.
Staying Safe and Warm During Winter Activities
From skating and snowboarding to skiing and sledding, the list of exciting winter activities for children is endless. With that said, it is critical to adhere to the following safety measures to ensure safe playtime in winter weather.
Children should wear comfortable skates to avoid sprain or break hazards, and must always wear a ski or hockey helmet while on the ice. If possible, children should skate indoors or on public rinks under constant supervision. If a child wishes to skate on pond or lake, the ice must be at least four inches thick and it is advisable to check your local weather outlets for information regarding ice thickness.
For children who enjoy winter sports such as snowboarding and skiing, it is vital to take lessons from a qualified instructor and never attempted to snowboard or ski solo. A competent technician should check bindings annually.
Children should also wear a helmet featuring side vents and wear bright, warm clothing. Icy hills should be avoided and skiers and snowboarders should remain on marked trails only. For sledding, a hockey or ski helmet should always be worn.
Parents should ensure the handholds on the child's sled are firmly in place. Children should also avoid crowded slopes and sled on shallow slopes without any dangerous obstacles such as fences or trees.
Winter Safety for Teens
If you have a new driver in the family, it's only natural that you might be concerned about their first winter on icy roads. For teens who are driving supervised or just obtained their license, winter driving can pose new and increased hazards.
Related: Check out our guide for finding cheap auto insurance rates for young drivers.
Watch the video above for some helpful winter driving recommendations from Consumer Affairs, then check out our top safety tips to help keep you and your teen out of harm's way this winter:
- Get your vehicle ready for icy and snowy conditions. Make sure your gas tank is at least half full, have an emergency kit handy in case of car trouble. It may also be worth it to invest in strong windshield wiper blades if yours are more than six months old.
- Brake with care. Give yourself plenty of room to brake and put continuous pressure on the brakes to provide enhanced control.
- Maintain a safe following distance. Keeping a few car lengths between you and the driver ahead of you is always a good rule of thumb. A 10-second following distance or more will give you leeway in the event you have to brake on icy highways.
- Drive at reduced speeds. While it's important to keep up with the flow of traffic, you should never feel pressured to drive faster than is safe. Factor a few extra minutes into your driving time so you can be punctual to your destination without compromising your safety.
- Look out for icy patches. If you see wet or slick spots in the road ahead, those could very well be ice. Slow down and exercise additional care on overpasses, bridges, intersections, and shady areas where ice patches frequently form.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Underinflated tires could be extremely dangerous on slippery roads, so always make sure your tires are inflated as recommended by the manufacturer in your owner's manual before hitting the roads.
- Charge your cell phone. This may seem like an obvious point, but if an emergency happens and you get stuck on wintry roads, you'll need to be able to call for assistance. Keep your phone charged and bring a portable backup charger with you.
- Wipe snow from your roof and hood. It may be a pain to go outside early to wipe the snow off your vehicle, but visibility is key to winter safety. Clear your car of snow, paying special attention to the hood and roof, before you set off for your destination.
- Make sure lights and windshields are free of snow and ice. Also in the interest of visibility, make sure your lights and windshields are clear of ice and snow. Keep an ice scraper in your car that you can grab as needed to scrape your windshield.
- Stay inside. If weather conditions turn unpleasant, stay inside at home if you can. While not always probable, this is the best way to avoid potentially hazardous and even life-threatening road situations.
Remember, you should never get behind the wheel while fatigued and both you and your passengers should wear your seat belt at all times. Never use cruise control on wintry roads or take your eyes off the road. One final tip. Watch out for black ice and never just assume that the road ahead is ice-free. Rhinocarhire.com says,
"Black ice is of course not black at all, rather 100% transparent so the ‘black’ road surface below is what you see, however on an untreated (grit/salt) road, if it’s below zero and the road appears wet, it’s likely black ice. On a treated road, if the temperature is below minus 6, it’s likely black ice and salt only reduces the freezing point to -6."
While winter tires can increase vehicle traction on snowy roads, Rhinocarhire.com notes that achieving a solid grip on black ice can still be extremely difficult.
Winter Safety for College Students
Whether you live on campus or commute to school, the onset of winter can bring increased challenges for college students. Before you head to class, make sure to check the weather forecast so you're not caught unprepared.
Any level of precipitation can make the roads dangerous. Electric lines can become overburdened and give way, causing hazardous downed wires and power outages. If there is any type of winter precipitation and you have to leave your dorm or apartment, be sure to wear a hat, scarf, mittens, as well as waterproof outwear and footwear.
Always wear numerous layers of clothing — and opt for loose rather than fitted layers to capture warm air and further insulate you from the cold. Below are some additional quick tips to help you handle this college winter like a pro:
- Stock up on daily staples, including school supplies, non-perishable items, your favorite snacks, and toiletries.
- Make sure your car is properly winterized with strong wiper blades, battery, chains or snow tires, and antifreeze.
- Always keep your gas tank at least half full.
- Keep your smartphone charged.
- Walk and drive slower than usual.
- Be extra careful when entering and exiting your car and check for ice before you step anywhere.
- Always check for weather updates before you go outside or get behind the wheel.
- Stay well hydrated.
- Wear sunglasses and sunscreen to reduce the effects of the sun's glare on the snow.
The wind chill is also important because it may be substantially lower than the actual temperature. So, even if the temperature outside isn't arctic, the wind chill may be and you should dress accordingly. It's a common misconception that alcohol will keep you warm in freezing temperatures.
While you may feel warm at first, in actuality, alcohol dilates the blood vessels and promotes faster heat loss. Alcohol can also diminish or remove your inhibitions, potentially causing you to misjudge the necessity of outerwear (which could lead to hypothermia or frostbite) and making winter driving even more hazardous.
In short, always wear your jacket, and never hit rubber to the road while intoxicated — icy roads or not. Not only will you put yourself and others in danger, but you will be setting yourself up for very expensive high risk auto insurance for many years to come.
Winter Safety for Employees
Winter weather is the bane of every commuter's existence, but with the right safety precautions, you can avoid winter-related workplace accidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the following measures be taken to ensure employers and workers avoid winter hazards:
- Businesses should clear snow and ice from walking areas and distribute de-icer as soon as possible following a snowstorm.
- If it is not possible to avoid walking on ice or snow, workers should wear proper footwear that provides traction (i.e. water-resistant boots, boots with rubber treads, etc.) and walk at a slow place with short steps.
- Businesses should ensure safe ladder usage by removing ice and snow from working surfaces.
- Businesses should train workers as necessary regarding fall protection when working at significant heights or on roofs.
- Additional caution should be used by employees working in close proximity to power lines.
- Businesses should prevent dangerous exposure to arctic temperatures and overexertion.
Whether your commute to work is a few miles away or much longer, factor additional time into your schedule for driving and walking to your final destination. Look out for black ice and exert caution even once you are inside, as entrances may prove dangerously slippery.
Before going outside, make sure to layer up to protect exposed skin, drink plenty of warm fluids, and take frequent rests in warm and dry places. Always remove damp clothing immediately once your shift or work period is over. Check out OSHA's recommended emergency kit components for workers to ensure you're prepared if an emergency comes your way.
Pet Winter Safety
Are you worried about how to keep your precious pets warm and dry this winter? No need to worry, the following tips will help you keep your pet safe and healthy when winter rolls around.
Older pets or pets that have arthritis may find it difficult to maintain normal activity levels during the winter, so you may need to reduce walk durations accordingly in the very freezing cold to protect you and your pet. After a walk, you should always wipe your pet's paws so they don't track in snow, slush, rock salt, and other unwanted substances.
Before the snow, sleet, ice, and other winter conditions strike, be sure your pet has their wellness exam. Dogs and cats should remain indoors in cold temperatures, as they are just as vulnerable to conditions like hypothermia and frostbite as their owners. Dogs such as huskies that may be accustomed to colder climates should still not be left outside for lengthy periods.
If you own a cat, check the hood of your car before you head out on a winter's morning, as cats are known to sleep in the wheel wells for warmth. Keep your dog away from the ice on walks, as they could be severely injured or killed if it fractures.
- Even if your pet lives outside most of the time, they should remain inside if temperatures go below zero.
- Cold cars can be equally dangerous for pets, so only take your pet out with you if required and never leave them in the car.
- Watch out for antifreeze spills and clean any spills immediately, as the chemicals could prove toxic and even deadly if your pet ingests them.
- If the power goes out, have a special emergency kit just for your pet with the medication, food, and water they would need for at least a week.
If winter weather hits and your pet is injured or needs medical attention, the Red Cross Pet First Aid App could prove invaluable. The app is available for iPhone, Android, or on the Amazon Marketplace.
15 Cities in the U.S. with the Highest Annual Snowfall
The infographic above reveals the cities across the U.S. with the highest annual snowfall. If you happen to live in one of the cities named above, you may face dangerously winter weather on the regular during your daily commute. How can drivers in cities with substantial snowfall reduce driving risk factors?
"My advice is to beware the 'phantom shoulder,'" says Riley Clark, a Salt Lake City, Utah resident and Content Marketing Specialist at BestCompany.com."During the winter months, snow plows often push slush and snow to one side of the road which makes it seem like the road or the shoulder is wider than it actually is."
Unfortunately, this slush and snow could mask an even greater hazard. Clark warns, "Although it might not appear to, this piled up snow and slush could actually be a covering a ditch or drop off. Be careful to avoid the shoulder as much as possible to steer clear of any hidden dangers."
Historical Winter Weather Conditions in the U.S. 2009 - 2017
The following table illustrates the most recently-released data regarding historical winter weather conditions in the U.S. Our research team collected over one million data points from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) recording blizzard conditions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2009 and 2017.
|2009||District of Columbia||9||0||0||0||0||9||0||0.00%|
|2010||District of Columbia||9||0||0||0||0||9||0||0.00%|
|2011||District of Columbia||4||0||0||0||0||4||0||0.00%|
|2012||District of Columbia||7||0||0||0||0||7||0||0.00%|
|2013||District of Columbia||7||0||1||0||0||8||0||12.50%|
|2014||District of Columbia||11||0||0||0||0||11||0||0.00%|
|2015||District of Columbia||12||0||0||0||0||12||1||0.00%|
|2016||District of Columbia||3||0||0||0||0||3||0||0.00%|
|2017||District of Columbia||5||0||0||0||0||5||0||0.00%|
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Insurance Tips for Winter Weather
With the possibility of snow, ice, sleet, and other winter conditions imminent, you might be wondering whether any special insurance considerations apply. Two essential coverage types to opt for on your auto policy are collision and comprehensive coverage, both of which protect your vehicle in the event it incurs damage. While these coverages are optional, if you don't already have them on your policy, you may want to consider adding them for the winter ahead.
- Collision coverage covers the cost of fixing or replacing your vehicle in the event of an accident (i.e. sliding on ice into another car) or if it collides with an object (such as a tree).
- Comprehensive coverage, on the other hand, applies to vehicle damage due to weather, hitting an animal, vandalism, theft, or something besides a crash or rollover.
It is worth noting that even with additional insurance policies to prepare for winter storms, if damage strikes, you'll still have to follow the standard claims process. Finder.com insurance specialist Roslyn McKenna shares,
"It pays to make sure your home or car insurance will cover storm damage, but even if you’re covered, you still need to make the claim. If you’re making an insurance claim after a big storm or natural disaster, expect delays in getting your claim payout."
Mckenna says that it's highly likely you won't be the only one filing a claim, which means it could take your insurer longer to work through the sheer number of claims. "It could be a few extra weeks or even months before your claim is completed," Mckenna confirmed.
Driving Safely in Winter Weather
Let's be honest — it's no fun driving in winter weather. No one would blame you for wanting to stay nice and cozy at home in your pajamas. However, whether you have to commute to school, work, or otherwise, it's almost inevitable that you could find yourself driving in arctic weather conditions.
The following tips for safe winter driving were provided to our research team by Sullivan Tire and Auto Service in Norwell, MA, an expert in tires for over 60 years.
If you get stuck, don’t spin your tires
If you get stuck in the snow, spinning your tires too fast can overheat them to the point where they will rupture and cause injury. Rocking your vehicle gently back and forth and accelerating slowly is the correct way to get out of a problem.
Consider snow tires
Advances in vehicle and all-season tire technology have made snow tires less important in many cases. However, there are some instances when you should consider snow tires:
- If you are a skier or snowboarder and head to ski country often
- If you use your vehicle for work and have to drive often in snowy conditions
- If you live or travel to the northern New England states such as Maine and Vermont—any areas that get hit with more severe winter weather
Get a winter check-up and test your battery
Having your tires, brakes, lights, windshield wipers, battery and antifreeze checked can save you time, money and inconvenience. With snow and colder temperatures coming, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
What to Do if You're Trapped in Your Car During a Winter Storm
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are trapped in your vehicle during a storm, it's crucial to understand the steps you need to take to remain safe until help arrives.
Lauren Fix shares that drivers who live in regions with harsh winters should, "Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are rarely adequate for most winter conditions. Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season to avoid a frozen fuel line."
Motorists should call the state highway patrol or listen to the radio for the latest road updates, Fix advises. She also recommends that drivers always travel during daylight hours if possible, and take at least one other person with you. Fix shares the following safety guidelines if you or someone you know gets trapped in their car during a blizzard:
- Stay in the car.
- Do not leave the car to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow.
- Display a trouble sign and flashing hazards.
- Hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna.
- Occasionally run the engine to keep warm.
- Turn on the car’s engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater when the car is running.
- Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Do minor exercises to keep up circulation.
- Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long.
- If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping.
- For warmth, huddle together.
- Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation.
- Avoid overexertion.
- Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. If you are unaccustomed to exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration.
A winter storm watch means that inclement winter weather may be imminent. A winter storm warning indicates that severe winter weather conditions are definitely on the way.
A blizzard warning means that large amounts of falling or blowing snow and sustained winds of at least 35 miles per hour are expected for several hours.
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The Ultimate Winter Weather Preparedness Checklists: Car & Home
Whether it's a flashlight in your car or a shovel for your home, you'll want to keep these essentials close by this winter: For many, snow storms and blizzards will be unavoidable. But how you prepare for natural disasters can make the difference in how you and your loved ones survive the storm.
Bottom line? Now is the time to get ready. Take all of the necessary precautions, and make this winter a season of protecting your home, car, and family. Start by entering your ZIP code below in our free tool to compare several policies in your area.