Winter Storms and Blizzards
Learn the basics about how to survive winter storms and blizzards.
Winter Storm and Blizzard Basics
Winter storms consist of wind, rain, freezing rain, sleet or snow. They can have different effects depending on how much precipitation falls and in what location. 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 defines a blizzard as a condition in which winds are 35 miles per hour or more and visibility is less than one-quarter mile because of falling and/or blowing snow.
Winter storms can cause:
Low visibility. Falling and/or blowing snow, falling sleet and freezing rain reduce visibility. This makes it difficult to see and dangerous to drive during a winter storm.
Low temperatures. Low temperatures during a winter storm can be dangerous. The effects of the temperature are compounded by the wind-chill factor. The wind-chill factor is how cold a person feels because of the combination of the temperature and wind. It feels colder when the wind blows because the body loses heat faster and because moisture evaporates faster, which also cools the body. The low temperatures are responsible for the dangers of hypothermia (drop in core body temperature) and frostbite (freezing of body tissues).
Heavy snow or ice accumulation makes driving and walking dangerous during and after a winter storm because of slippery roads. Such accumulations also cause damage by downing power lines and trees and by causing floods. Overexertion from people shoveling snow or trying to walk through deep snow can lead to heart attacks.
In addition, winter storms can force people to use alternative sources of heat such as kerosene heaters. If these heaters are not working properly or if people use them inappropriately, there is a risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Resources for Winter Storms and Blizzards