Winter Weather

Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region.  Even areas that normally experience mild winters can be hit with a major snowstorm or extreme cold.  Winter storms can result in flooding, storm surge, closed highways, blocked roads, downed power lines and hypothermia.  Be prepared for slippery roads, limited visibility, and use caution when driving.  In extreme cold temperatures, it is advised that you limit your outside activities.

Familiarize yourself with the following terms that are used to identify winter weather:

    • Winter Storm Watch: A winter storm is possible in your area.  Listen to your commercial radio or television for more information.
    • Winter Weather Advisory: can be issued when a low pressure system produces a combination of winter weather that produces a hazard but does not meet warning criteria.  The combination of winter weather can include, snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc.
    • Winter Weather Advisory for Snow is used to express the risks of travel caused by snow-covered roads and low visibilities.  Drive with caution.
    • Freezing Rain Advisory: refers to a forecast where substantial accumulation is expected.
    • Freezing Rain: is rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines.
    • Sleet is rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground.  Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
    • Winter Storm Warning: is in effect when a winter storm is either forecasted or already taking place, meaning heavy snow or large ice accumulation are forecast or imminent.  Typically, snow exceeding 6 inches, significant ice accumulation, dangerous wind chills, or any combination would prompt a warning to be issued.
    • Blizzard Warning:
      Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
    • Frost/Freeze Warning: Below freezing temperatures are expected.


The following are guidelines for what you should do during a winter storm or under conditions of extreme cold:

    • Listen to your radio or television for weather reports and emergency information.
    • Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
    • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.  Overexertion can bring on a heart attack —a major cause of death in the winter.  If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
    • Watch for signs of frostbite.  These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose.  If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.  Additionally, watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion.  If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first, and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious.  Get medical help as soon as possible.
    • Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal.  Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.
    • 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.
    • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
    • Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must:
      • Carry an Emergency Supply Kit in the trunk.
      • Travel in the day if possible.
      • Try not travel alone.
      • Stay on main roads; avoid back road shortcuts.
      • Keep your car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
      • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive.  If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
      • Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.


    • If a blizzard traps you in the car, keep these guidelines in mind:
      • Pull off the highway.  Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.
      • Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you.  Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter.  Be careful; distances are distorted by blowing snow.  A building may seem close, but be too far to walk to in deep snow.
      • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm.  When the engine is running, open an upwind window slightly for ventilation.  This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.  Periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe.
      • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion.  In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation.  Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
      • Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
      • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
      • Be careful not to waste battery power.  Balance electrical energy needs—the use of lights, heat, and radio—with supply.
      • Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.
      • If stranded in a remote area, stomp large block letters in an open area spelling out HELP or SOS and line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane.



Notification of Winter Weather Conditions

The University will make announcements using the Emergency Notification System and the University’s website.