Winter Storm Readiness

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Winter Storms

A winter storm occurs when there is significant precipitation and the temperature is low enough that precipitation forms as sleet or snow, or when rain turns to ice. A winter storm can range from freezing rain and ice, to moderate snowfall over a few hours, to a blizzard that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by high winds and dangerously low temperatures.

Winter storms can cause power outages that last for days. They can make roads extremely dangerous or impassable and close or limit critical community services such as public transportation, child care, health programs and schools. Injuries and deaths may occur from exposure, dangerous road conditions, and carbon monoxide poisoning and other conditions.

 


Before Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Sign up for email and text alerts from the City of Sammamish here.
  • Know the City of Sammamish Snow and Ice Maintenance Routes for snow plowing and anti-icer application. The 2017 Snow & Ice Route Map can be found here.
  • Get the Puget Sound Energy - MyPSE app to receive and report power outage information here.
  • Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Make an emergency kit for up to two weeks of self-sufficiency.
  • Keep space heater safety in mind: Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Remember to keep all heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Prepare your home:
    • Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the warm air inside.
    • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detectors.
    • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
    • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace, consider storing wood to keep you warm if winter weather knocks out your heat. Also, make sure you have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
    • Extra blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter coats
    • Fireplace or wood-burning stove with plenty of dry firewood, or a gas log fireplace
  • Prepare your vehicle:
    • Fully winterize your vehicle: Have a mechanic check antifreeze, brakes, heater and defroster, tires, and windshield wipers to ensure they are in good shape. Keep your gas tank at least half full.
    • Keep an extra emergency kit specifically created for your car. In addition to the basic essentials, consider adding a portable cell phone charger, ice scraper, extra blanket, sand for traction and jumper cables.
  • Make sure you have a cell phone with an emergency charging option (car, solar, hand crank, etc.) in case of a power failure.
  • People who depend on electricity to operate medical equipment should have alternate arrangements in place in case power is out for an extended period of time.
  • Plan to check on elderly/disabled relatives and neighbors.
  • Plan to bring pets.
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it in case you lose power.
  • Purchase appliance thermometers and place in refrigerator and freezer to monitor food temperatures if power goes out.

 

During Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule and your route; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. Use caution, take breaks, push the snow instead of lifting it when possible, and lift lighter loads.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.

 

Cold Related Illness

  • Frostbite is a serious condition that’s caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures.
  • Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.  Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature. Warnings signs of hypothermia include:
    • Adults: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech drowsiness
    • Infants:  bright red, cold skin, very low energy
    • If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

 

Carbon Monoxide

Caution: Each year, an average of 430 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and there are more than 20,000 visits to the emergency room with more than 4,000 hospitalizations. Carbon monoxide-related deaths are highest during colder months. These deaths are likely due to increased use of gas-powered furnaces and alternative heating, cooking, and power sources used inappropriately indoors during power outages.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal¬ burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Keep these devices at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.

 

After WINTER storms and Extreme Cold

  • If your home loses power or heat for more than a few hours or if you do not have adequate supplies to stay warm in your home overnight, you may want to go to a designated public shelter if you can get there safely. The American Red Cross Emergency App provides up-to-date information on open public shelters and weather information.
  • Bring any personal items that you would need to spend the night (such as toiletries, medicines). Take precautions when traveling to the shelter. Dress warmly in layers, wear boots, mittens, and a hat.
  • Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

 
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