ST. LOUIS -- If it’s slipping off into the ditch on snowy roads, enduring power outages from an ice storm or battling the extreme cold, being Winter Weather Ready will help keep you, your family and your pets safe.
Prepare Your Home | Safe Driving and Survival Kit | Making Sense of Warnings | Extreme Cold and Space Heater Safety | Pet Safety
Preparing your home for Winter Weather:
In 2006, a harsh winter storm encased the St. Louis metropolitan area in a thick layer of ice. Nearly 500,000 homes were left in the dark for days. If that happened this winter, would your family be prepared? Meteorologist Matt Chambers shows you how to make sure you, and your home, are ready for the worst.
Assume you’ll need to be self-sufficient for three days, without power and without a source of heat. Create a kit that includes:
- Non-perishable food (enough for everyone in the house)
- Battery-operated NOAA weather radio, AM/FM radio, or both
- Spare batteries
- If there is an infant in the home, make sure you have baby formula on hand
- If there is someone in the home on medication, have at least a 3-day supply ready to go
- 3 Gallons of water for each family member
And here are some tips to keep your pipes from freezing:
- Remove and store hoses for the winter
- In some homes, you can actually close the indoor valves that lead to the outdoor hose bibs
- Consider installing “pipe sleeves,” especially in parts of your home that are not heated
- Open cabinet doors under sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around plumbing pipes
- When it’s bitterly cold, allowing faucets to drip can keep pipes from freezing
Safe Driving and Survival Kit During Winter Weather:
We get an average of about 18 inches of snow and a few episodes of ice every year so you will have to deal with Winter driving conditions. Meteorologist Kent Ehrhardt shares tips that can help you prepare for tough conditions and maybe even avoid getting stranded.
- Prepare your car; check to make sure your battery, belts and hoses are in good working order
- Tire pressure needs to be adjusted because tires lose about a pound of pressure for every 10 degree drop in temperature
- Your wiper blades need to be in good shape
- Fill your washer fluid reservoir and carry an extra gallon in your car. You know all those stacks of blue fluid at the gas station may not be there when you need it
- Keep some old winter clothes in the trunk including a blanket, cap, boots and gloves
- Keep a flashlight and fresh batteries, tools, a tow rope, shovel and traction material like sand or kitty litter in your trunk
- Slow down on the road; remember all-wheel drive only helps with traction to get you moving, it does nothing to help slow you down or corner
- Always carry a cell phone
- Clear all the snow from your car, including your roof and headlights, before you leave
- Increase your following distance to 8 to 10 seconds
- If you do get stuck, stay with your car, put a signal on your antenna or out your window and bundle up with those spare winter clothes
Making Sense of Advisories, Watches & Warnings:
Winter Weather Watches, Warnings and Advisories: What do they mean and how are they different? 4Warn Meteorologist Kristen Cornett makes it a bit easier to understand.
- If the word "warning" is used, that's as significant as it gets. It means the warned event could be life threatening.
- Blizzard Warning: Winds of 35 mph or more causing blowing snow and reducing visibilities to less than a quarter mile for three hours or more.
- Winter Storm WARNING: Snow totals of six inches or more -or- sleet accumulations of one half inch or more
- Winter Storm WATCH Strong possibility that an APPROACHING storm COULD produce those accumulations amounts. It's issued to give you time to prepare.
- If you hear us use the word ADVISORY, this is going to be a lesser event. While inconvenient, it's not expected to be life threatening.
- Winter Weather Advisory:1-5" of snow and less than 1/2" of sleet expected.
- An Ice Storm Warning: Expect ice accumulations of 1/4" or more.
- Freezing rain advisory Less than 1/4 of ice expected to accumulate.
- Wind Chill Warning Expect wind chills of 25 below zero or colder.
- Wind Chill Advisory: Wind chills of minus 15 to minus 24.
How Different Types of Winter Weather Develop, from snow to sleet to freezing rain:
Precipitation Types: From all snow to a mix of freezing rain and sleet – or a combination of these – different types of winter precipitation come down to one thing: What are the temperatures doing between where we’re standing on the ground and the bottom of those gray winter clouds? Meteorologist Meghan Danahey helps explain how a little layer of warm air aloft can mean big challenges in the winter weather forecasting department.
- Winter cold fronts bring Arctic air into our region from the north.
- Cold air is heavier than warm air, so it hugs the Earth’s surface
- Warm air will ride up and over the cold layer of air.
- The thickness of that cold layer will determine precipitation type.
- Most of our winter precipitation begins as snow at the cloud base.
- A thick layer of above-freezing air on the way to the ground will melt the snowflakes into a cold rain.
- If a very shallow layer of cold air exists at the surface, the cold rain will become freezing rain. Supercooled water droplets will freeze on impact with sub-freezing surfaces on the ground.
- The longer we see freezing rain, the thicker and more dangerous the glaze of ice becomes.
- Snowflakes falling into a thin layer of warm air aloft will first, melt into raindrops. Second, they will refreeze into ice pellets, or sleet, as they fall back through a sub-freezing layer on the way to the ground.
- In order to see a pure snow, temperatures between the cloud base and ground must be completely below freezing.
- Pure snow is much easier to drive on and plow off of roadways and sidewalks.
Extreme Cold & Space Heater Safety:
What is the Polar Vortex and how does it bring us brutal cold snaps? From extreme cold to what you need to know about space heaters Chief Meteorologist Steve Templeton helps get you and your family Winter Weather Ready for the extreme cold.
Extreme Cold Safety:
- Heat-Up St. Louis offers low-income seniors and disabled people with help paying their utility bills, click here for more
- When using alternative heat source never burn charcoal indoors it produces carbon monoxide
- Using alternative heat sources is a fire hazard, make sure smoke detectors are working
- Using a generator? Always use it outside. Never use propane, oil or kerosene heaters indoors, they give off carbon monoxide
- Cold weather puts a strain on the heart, even without exercise. Be careful when shoveling to avoid over exertion
- The wind chill is what it “feels” like with both wind and low temperatures combined. It’s based on exposed skin, but the key is not to have exposed skin when the wind chill is an impact
Taking Care of Your Pet:
- Despite their fur, pets like cats and dogs can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia. They need protection from the cold just as their owners do. Here’s how to help keep your pets safe during the both typical cold winter days and the extreme cold snaps.
- Obviously being inside and warm is best. If outdoors though, they need shelter from the elements, soft warm bedding and fresh water.
- Warm blankets or straw can be a good insulation for an outdoor shelter.
- Do not use a heat lamp or space heater not approved for your animal. It can be a burn hazard for your pet and a potential fire hazard.
- Pets don’t get enough water from licking ice or eating snow. Fresh water is needed.
- In the past the City of St. Louis has warned pet owners during severe cold snaps that teams would search for pets left outdoors and owners would be cited with animal cruelty.
- Dog may get ice balls as snow collects in their paws and toes. You can keep the hair near their toes short to help keep them clear.
- Some ice melt products can cause dry, chapped and potentially painful paws. Some products will describe if they are safe for pets. Or wipe your pets’ paws when you return inside.
- Keep in mind some animals seek warmth in unusual places. Neighborhood animals, particularly cats, may crawl up into a car engine to get shelter and warmth.
What to have in your house:
- Flashlight & extra batteries
- Get extra prescription medicine, baby needs or anything you’ll need to stay healthy before a storm hits when that storm threat may cause roads to be impassable like heavy snow or an ice storms
- First-Aid kit
- Bottled water and some energy bars or any food you don’t need to cook or refrigerate.
- Smoke detectors. If you use a space hater during a power outage, do not leave it on while you sleep and have properly working smoke detectors.
Looking for more information on winter weather preparedness? Here are a few links that provide great information.