( Additional information can also be found at http://weather.gov/om/winter/ )
Wind chill is not the actual temperature, but rather how wind and cold feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also affected by wind chill; however cars, plants and other objects are not.
Frostbite is damage to the body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill of -20° Fahrenheit (F) will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.
Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. It can kill. For those who survive, there are likely to be lasting kidney, liver, and pancreas problems. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. Take the person's temperature. If below 95°F, seek medical care immediately!
One of the leading causes of death and injuries during winter storms is traffic accidents. Driving in winter weather takes extra skill, time and caution. Vehicle and road capabilities are greatly reduced and call for constant driving awareness and attention. Here are some winter driving recommendations from The American Red Cross which could save your life.
1) Have your car(s) winterized before the winter storm season. Keeping your car(s) in good condition will decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather. Check, and repair as necessary, your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, lights, heater, defroster, and tires.
2) If you have a cell phone or two-way radio available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling in winter weather.
3) Put together a disaster supplies kit for the trunk of each car used by members of your household. At the least this kit should include:
• An ice scraper and shovel
• Jumper cables
• Sand or kitty litter for traction
• Extra blankets or clothing
• Non-perishible food
• A first aid kit
• Matches and candles
• A tow rope or chain
4) Plan long trips carefully. Listen to weather radio, local radio/TV or call the state transportation department for the latest road conditions. Plan to travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person. Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. Be aware of sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and dense fog, which can make driving very hazardous.
5) Yield to snowplows, and give them plenty of room to operate.
6) If your vehicle becomes stranded, stay with it until help arrives.
7) Do not try to walk for help during a blizzard, you could easily become lost in the whiteout conditions.
Winter Driving Techniques
If you are stranded in a winter storm, do not panic. Stay in the vehicle, keep fresh air circulating through a downwind window, run the motor sparingly, turn on the dome light, and stimulate circulation and stay awake by moving arms and legs. If you leave the car, work slowly in the snow to avoid over-exertion and the risk of a heart attack.
• Buckle up and properly secure children in safety seats. Allow extra time for delays and slower traffic speeds.
• Increase the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Ice and snow significantly increase your stopping distance.
• Accelerate and brake gently. A light foot on the gas is less likely to make wheels spin on ice and snow. Braking is best accomplished by pumping the pedal. If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), it is very important that you understand how to use it. Read the owners manual or check with a dealership for more information, and practice using it correctly.
• Make turnes slowly and gradually, especially in heavily traveled areas.
• Visibility is very important.You must be able to see out, and other drivers must be able to see your vehicle. Clean frost and/or snow off all of your windows, mirrors, and lights. Use headlights as necessary.
• If your car loses traction and begins to slide, steer into the swerve, or in the direction you want to go. Anticipate a second skid in the opposite direction as the car straightens out.
• If you plan to drive, do not drink. Designate a driver or call a cab. Report impaired drivers to a law enforcement agency.
If you will be outside during storms or extreme cold, dress in layered clothing and avoid overexertion. Use caution when shoveling snow. Shoveling is very hard work and may increase the risk for heart attack.
Winter Fires, Carbon Monoxide and Home Safety
Too many preventable fires occur year-round, especially during the winter months. During this time Kansans and Missourians should examine heating methods, practice fire escape plans and check smoke detectors. Fires related to home heating are primarily responsible for the increased number of fires during the winter.
It is very importance to ensuring your home has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and that it is tested monthly to ensure they’re in working order. The advance warning these alarms provide can prevent tragedy by giving families enough time to get out of their house alive.
All gasoline and diesel generators create carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that inhibits the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, a condition that can cause serious health problems, and even death, within a matter of minutes. The first symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning usually include headache, lightheadedness, dizziness and unexplained sleepiness.
Tips for winter storm fire safety:
• Use battery operated lanterns or flashlights instead of candles and oil lamps during power outages.
• Keep generators outside of occupied buildings and never run a generatorin an attached garage.
• Never use fossil fueled (propane, kerosene or heating oil) space heaters inan enclosed room; these heaters require a well ventilated area to preventthe accumulation of carbon monoxide.
• Keep chimneys, fireplaces and flues clean and never use a liquid fuel orcardboard to start a fire in a woodstove or fireplace.
• Do not use extension cords to power electric space heaters or use any electric heater that has the cord frayed, repaired or improperly replaced.
• Vehicle exhaust fumes contain large quantities of carbon monoxide. Neverrun a vehicle in a garage. If you are stuck in a vehicle, make sure theexhaust pipe is clear of snow, ice or debris and only run the engine for short periods to maintain warmth in the vehicle.
Children can be especially susceptible to the dangers associated with winter weather. Their youthful enthusiasm often takes over when common sense should prevail. School administrators and principals need to be sensitive to the dangers winter weather can pose to children and be prepared. Winter weather procedures and practices need to be established before the onset of winter cold. The following items should be considered when formulating a winter weather safety plan:
•All schools should have ready access to current weather information. If the school is in a county covered by NOAA Weather Radio, that would be the best source. Commercial media can also be monitored. Arrangements can also be made with local law enforcement agencies to have critical winter weather forecasts relayed to the school.
•All schools need to have a functional plan in regard to closures due to snow, ice, or extreme cold.
•During the winter months, guidelines need to be established regarding outside recess. Temperatures and wind chills need to be monitored and criteria set as to when outside recess will be allowed.
•School bus drivers should receive extra training on driving during winter weather. Snow and ice can often accumulate quickly and unexpectedly on roads creating dangerous driving conditions.
•With many households having two working parents today, it may be necessary for some children to be brought to school early. Schools should make provisions to allow children inside school buildings as early as possible during cold weather.
For more winter weather safety information please see,