So I am writing this the first week of January and I am in the Great Lakes Region of the United States… that can only mean one of these days we are going to have some pretty bad snow – Unless that Global Warming promise has finally come true – but that sounds like another topic for another day.
So as the possibility of a major winter storm bears down our now chilled backs, what should we be doing to get prepared? Well, I am so glad you asked as I was just running through that exercise in my home and thought I would take you along on the journey with me. I think the best place to start is with how to understand all those different types of notification that are put out by weather people. Here is my best shot.
Understanding Weather Notifications
Weather notifications are broken up, in my experience, into 4 categories that I am looking out for and this is what my action is based on what I am hearing:
- Winter Storm Advisory – This means that conditions of “Significant Inconvenience” are probable and may be hazardous in the next 12-36 hours. What does this mean to me? Let’s start by rechecking that all the supplies in my cars are topped off like if my kids cracked into my emergency Freeze Dried Peaches in my truck and I need to restock from the home stash. Now my kids are pretty good about not touching the “emergency” stash as we call it, but every once in awhile someone is getting “hangry” and needs some granola or has some hot pipes and opens one of my waters. Needless to say, let’s make sure that it’s all topped off. I am also going to run through my automobile prep checklist below. Literally, I will spend 5 minutes just double checking things and if I have already done my winterization, it is probably only like 2.
- Winter Storm Watch – This is their way of saying that a winter storm will hit somewhere near me in the next 12-36 hours and that it is very likely we are going to see some snow, it’s just not imminent yet. This is my time to make sure the house is in order and I check on the batteries in the Carbon Monoxide Detector, make sure the kids haven’t run the batteries down on my emergency flashlights and lanterns building some sort of blanket fort over the holiday break. I am also checking in on my water, food, and fuel supply. In other words, I prepare for a blackout which happens a lot by us since we live in a pretty wooded area with lots of overhead power lines. The heavy snow is like a magnet to the dead trees as the trees are to the lines so let’s get ready.
- Winter Storm Warning – This means that >4″ of snow will fall in the next 12 hours or >6″ of snow will fall in the next 24 hours. Either way, I cancel my plans until it all settles. Sometimes the forecasters are off and we only get two inches; other times we get two feet. Either way, I don’t need to be on the roads so my girls are excused from dance class and I cancel the Scouts meeting for the night. What we are doing here is eliminating the risk of getting into a car accident or getting stranded.
- Blizzard Warning – so this is everything you would expect in a Winter Storm Warning, but now we have added gusts of wind >35 MPH (16KPH). That is a do not leave the house situation. But that is easy for me to say because I don’t NEED to leave the house unless there is a medical emergency. So I guess that is what we should probably talk about next. What are we really afraid of?
Stay smart. Stay warm. Reduce risk. Just be a good person. Those are the keys to living through winter weather.