Winter storms cause more damage and kill more people every year in Wisconsin than tornadoes, lightning, and floods. Winter weather has many dangers, from snow and wind to extreme cold, ice, and fog.
Prolonged exposure to extreme cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia (infants and the elderly are most susceptible). Below you'll find tips for winter safety whether you're indoors or outdoors, and how to recognize signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
The Wind Chill Index below shows what cold weather accompanied by wind feels like against exposed flesh.
Winter Storm Watch Severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice are possible within the next day or two. Prepare now!
Winter Storm Warning Severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin in your area. Stay indoors!
Blizzard Warning Snow and strong winds will combine to produce blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill. Seek refuge immediately.
Frost/Freeze Warning Below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause significant damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees.
Effects of the Cold
Frostbite Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure, and can cause permanently damage. Symptoms include a loss of feeling, and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or nose and ear lobes.
Hypothermia Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when the body temperature drops below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.
Treatment If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance.
Warm the person's trunk first. Use your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure.
Put the person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket.
Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine (like coffee or tea) or alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant and can make the heart beat faster, hastening the effects of the cold on the body. Alcohol is a depressant and can slow the heart, also hastening the ill effects of cold body temperatures.
Winter Safety Tips
FOR THE ELDERLY
As we get older, we're more sensitive to the cold
Find a "buddy" to check on you daily, in person or by telephone
Stay active. Sitting in one place can make you colder
Ask a friend or relative to de-ice or shovel your walkways and porches to avoid a fall
Use proper precautions when using alternate heating, such as a fireplace, wood stove, or electric heater, including proper ventilation and keeping flammables far away
Eat. This helps your body produce its own heat.
Avoid alcohol, which can make your body lose heat
Close off unused rooms to conserve heat
Wear loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid perspiring
Wear loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing in several layers
Wear a hat, particularly one that covers your ears
Wear mittens, these are better than gloves because they keep the fingers close together
Try to stay dry and cover all exposed parts of your body
Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold
Do not eat snow. It lowers your body temperature-- let it melt first.
Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm.
Keep your gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines
If your vehicle becomes stranded in the snow stay with your vehicle unless you can see an occupied building nearby. You could become disoriented walking in a snowstorm.
It is better to periodically run the vehicle's engine and heater, but make sure you open your window a crack and make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow. Ten minutes every hour is good.
Make yourself visible to other motorists. Tie a red or orange rag to the vehicle's radio antenna. Turn on the dome light when your engine is running. Raise your hood when the snow stops.
Keep moving. From time to time, vigorously move your arms and legs, fingers and toes, to keep blood circulating.
Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins. Carry a Winter Storm Survival Kit, which should include:
1 blanket or sleeping bag for each person
Flashlight with extra batteries
First Aid kit
High-calorie, non-perishable food
Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking