Winter storms consist of wind, rain, freezing rain, sleet or snow. They can have different effects depending on how much precipitation falls and where it falls. For example, in the South, a dusting of snow can be dangerous, while a larger snowstorm would be necessary to cause problems in the North.
A blizzard is an extreme winter storm. The National Weather Service says a winter storm is a blizzard if the winds are 35 miles per hour or more and you can see for no more than one-quarter mile because of falling and/or blowing snow. The distance you can see is called the "visibility."
Winter storms affect most parts of the United States. They can occur anywhere that snow falls.
A winter storm or blizzard can be very dangerous. Winter storms can cause injuries and deaths indirectly.
- About 7 out of 10 deaths that occur during winter storms involve automobile or other transportation accidents. Driving during and after a winter storm is very dangerous because of low visibility and snow and ice on the road.
- Heart attacks and exhaustion are common during winter storms. Shoveling snow takes a lot of strength and can be dangerous for people who are not used to exercising.
- Low temperatures, made worse by wind, are hazardous. Low temperatures can cause two dangerous conditions if people do not protect themselves. Hypothermia is when the body's temperature, which is usually about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, drops. This causes damage to the body. Frostbite is when an exposed body part begins to freeze.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning can result when people do not use sources of heat properly.
- Fires are also common during winter storms because people are not always cautious when using space heaters and fireplaces. During the winter the danger is greater because the water that the firefighters would use may be frozen.
Low temperatures also can be dangerous. People who don't protect themselves from the cold can get frostbite (frozen body parts) and hypothermia (low body temperature). Both of these conditions can cause permanent injuries and, in some cases, death.
The temperature does not have to be below freezing to be dangerous. Wind can increase the effect of the cold. The wind-chill factor is how cold a person feels because of the combination of the temperature and wind. For example, if it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside but the wind is moving at 15 miles per hour, it will feel like it is only 9 degrees Fahrenheit. It feels colder when the wind blows because the body loses heat faster.
When you get wet, moisture evaporates faster, which makes the body cool off. This is why it is important to stay dry during and after a flood, winter storm or other disaster. You can develop hypothermia or frostbite even when the air temperature is above freezing.
This activity will investigate the effect that wind and moisture have on how cool your body feels.
You Will Need:
- A piece of paper (8 1/2 by 11 inches)
- Make a paper fan
- Take the piece of paper and fold about 1 inch on one end.
- Turn the paper over and fold the end that has been folded once by another inch so that the first flap is now facing up.
- Continue this process until the entire sheet has been folded.
- Hold one of the narrow ends of the folded paper and let the other end open so that it resembles a fan.
- Wave the fan so that you feel the air moving on the back of your other hand. Notice the cool feeling that it makes.
- Wet the back of one hand with water.
- Switch the fan from hand to hand and compare how cool each hand feels.
What do you feel? Does the wet hand feel cooler than the dry one when you fan it?
When you fan the wet hand, the moisture slowly evaporates. This cools the hand. When your body is wet it becomes cooler, faster. When a flood, winter storm or other disaster occurs it is important to stay dry to avoid developing hypothermia (cooling the body below normal).