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  • Writer's pictureMichael Thornton

Preparing yourself for winter weather

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

In late October of 2020, Oklahoma suffered a devasting 3-day ice storm that caused over 27 million dollars in damage and left 500,000 citizens in Oklahoma without power for 2-weeks. 5 months later in February of 2021, an arctic cold front extended South into Texas causing temperatures to dip well below negative 30 degrees in some states. This caused the

infrastructure across Texas and Oklahoma to fail and over 210 Texans passed away as a result of being exposed to the extreme cold. During the month of January in 1978, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky fell victim to a nasty blizzard that produced over 50 inches of snow in the town of Muskegon, Michigan as a result of heavy lake effect snowfall. This storm attributed to

over 70 deaths across the 6 states with 51 of those fatalities occurring in Ohio. These are just 3 separate examples of how winter storms can affect our lives and why we need to be prepared for them. Staying Informed is always an important factor when dealing with winter storms. It is recommended that you own a NOAA Weather Radio, this way when a winter weather watch or warning is

issued, you are immediately notified and know what to expect in the coming hours. However, what if you're hard-of-hearing or deaf? Text-based alert systems such as OK-Warn allow Oklahoma residents to be notified when hazardous weather is expected or occurring via email or a text message to their phone. Similar alert systems may also exist in your State, County, or town. If these

systems exist in your area, it is recommended that you sign up for them. Another great way to stay informed before, during, and after a winter storm is by tuning into your favorite local news station. Broadcast Meteorologists and news anchors can provide citizens with the most up-to-date information during a winter storm, whether that be something as simple as news anchors mentioning road closures and power outages, or a broadcast meteorologist discussing what is occurring at that very second. Having a plan in place

before a winter storm impacts your area is essential as you will know what you need to do if the winter storm is impactful to your daily routines. When creating a plan write down who you will contact if you lose power and are without heat for multiple days. This is important because then your family or other important contacts can stay up-to-date on what is going on in your city in the event that

you require assistance. Make sure that your plan covers any medical needs that you, your family members, or roomate(s) may need. Any medical needs that require medication should be stocked in your Emergency Preparedness Kit and be useable for a minimum of 3-days. If your medical needs require a battery of any sort, be sure to have multiple battery backups in the event that you lose power. Make sure to store critical documents in a sealed and waterproof container. If possible, store this container on a shelf or somewhere higher than the flood zone in your home. This will keep the

documents dry in the event that snowmelt flooding occurs. Warm clothing is a must in your EPK (Emergency Preparedness Kit) in the event that you lose power for multiple days. This is important because if you are without power for multiple days the temperature in your home will begin to decline whether your home is well insulated or not. Your EPK should also include multiple blankets. Have at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food and 1 gallon of water for each of your family members. Integrate important tools into your EPK like a flashlight, matches, multi-tool, pocket knife, power banks for phones, and a

whistle in the event that you become trapped and need immediate assistance. Finally, make sure that your plan and preparedness kit includes the needs of your pets. In this last section, we will focus on hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia and frostbite are serious issues that can arise when exposed to cold weather conditions for an extended period of time. Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. Some signs that you are experiencing hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, confusion as to where you are or what you were doing,

memory loss, drowsiness, slurred speech, and exhaustion. If you or a person near you begins to show symptoms of hypothermia, immediately move the affected person to a warm indoor area and be sure to remove any wet clothing. Warm the center of the body first by wrapping blankets around the affected person. If the person is awake and responding to you, have them drink warm liquids. If the affected person's body temperature has not risen, seek medical attention immediately. Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissues begin to freeze as a result of exposure to cold temperatures. Someone who experiences frostbite will notice a loss of sense of feeling in the affected area. Visually, we can tell if someone is experiencing frostbite by looking

at the affected area. If the affected area has a white or pale appearance, then that person is experiencing frostbite. In the event that you or someone nearby are outdoors for an extended period of time and begin showing signs of frostbite, you should do the following. Immediately cover any part of the skin that has been exposed to harsh elements. Do not rub any part of the skin that has been exposed in an attempt to warm it as rubbing the affected area could damage the tissue further. Seek medical help immediately. This concludes the first of 3 articles on winter storm safety. Next month we will focus on winterizing your home.

About the writer: Michael Thornton graduated from Rose State College majoring in Emergency Management. Currently, he is the Director for Tillman County Emergency Management and is an Oklahoma Emergency Management Association member.


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