Summer has come and gone across the Central Plains, meaning now is the time to focus attention to winter weather and the dangers it can pose to life and property. The National Weather Service, along with the State of Nebraska, has declared November 4th as Nebraska Winter Weather Awareness Day. And the National Weather Service, along with the State of Kansas, has declared November 17th as Kansas Winter Weather Awareness Day. The National Weather Service is using this day as an opportunity to get information out to the public about winter weather, its impacts, and how to protect life and property.
There are a number of different ways that winter storms can impact a region and the people who live there. Winter storms are considered deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm itself. People could be in an automobile accident on icy roads, have a heart attack while shoveling snow, or suffer frostbite or hypothermia from prolonged exposure to the cold.
Why talk about Winter Weather?
- Each year, dozens of Americans die due to exposure to cold. Add to that number vehicle accidents and fatalities, fires due to dangerous use of heaters, and other winter weather fatalities, and you have a significant threat.
- People can become trapped at home or in a vehicle, without utilities or any other assistance.
- A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied by high winds, freezing rain, sleet, heavy snowfall and cold temperatures.
- Threats, such as hypothermia and frostbite, can lead to loss of fingers or toes, other permanent injuries, or even death.
- The aftermath of a winter storm can have an impact on a community or region for days, weeks, or even months.
- Extremely cold temperatures, heavy snow and flooding caused by ice jams can create hazardous conditions and hidden problems.
It is very important to be prepared in case a winter storm strikes, and everyone should create a plan for what you and your family will do in case of a storm. Having your car fully checked and winterized, along with having supplies available if you are stranded for a period of time in your home or at work, are things that should be done before each winter season arrives.
Wind-Some winter storms have extremely strong winds which can create blizzard conditions with blinding, wind driven snow, drifting, and dangerous wind chills. These intense winds can bring down trees and poles, and can also cause damage to homes and other buildings.
Snow-Heavy snow accumulations can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding motorists, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency services. Buildings may collapse and trees and power lines can be destroyed from the heavy snow. In rural regions, homes and farms may be isolated for days, and livestock could be lost.
Cold-Extremely cold temperatures can accompany winter storms and be left in their wake. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to prolonged exposure to the cold, which can cause potentially life-threatening conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite. Below freezing temperatures can damage vegetation and cause pipes to freeze and burst inside homes.
Ice-Heavy ice accumulations can bring down objects like trees, utility poles and lines, and communication towers. Power can be disrupted or lost for days while utility companies repair the damage. Even a small amount of ice can cause hazardous conditions for motorists and pedestrians.