Winter storms can range in severity from a moderate snow fall over a few hours to a blinding blizzard that lasts for several days. Blizzards are severe winter storms that are defined as a combination of blowing snow and winds (in excess of 35 mph) – often resulting in very low visibilities. Being prepared for a winter storm is critical, as strong winds paired with heavy snow accumulation can paralyze a city, strand motorists, stop the flow of supplies and disrupt emergency services. A lot can happen when a dangerous winter storm strikes:

  • Street and Interstate closures
  • Loss of internet and cable
  • Power outages

Severe weather preparation is key. Read on for ways to keep yourself, your family and your home warm and safe before a blizzard strikes.

Preparing for a Blizzard

Here are some items to have on hand so you are prepared when the snow starts falling hard:

  • Shovels or a snow blower: Have a few shovels in case you need to dig your way out. If you have a snow blower, make sure that it’s filled with gas and is fully functional so you’re not left buried.
  • Stock up at the grocery store: It’s a good idea to have a three-day supply of water and food on hand in case your power is wiped out by a big winter storm. While you’re there, grab some salt/sand for your driveway and sidewalk!
  • Extra blankets and warm coats: Keep these items on hand for each family member as a blizzard safety precaution. You don’t want to be left in the cold if your power is taken out.  
  • An emergency radio and extra batteries: If you don’t already have an emergency radio, now is a good time to get one. They’re affordable and readily available and will keep you updated on weather alerts and winter storm warnings.
  • Car safety kit: Traveling during a blizzard is highly discouraged but if you must, it’s vital to have a car safety kit with you. This kit can include things like extra blankets and warm clothing, a flashlight, a shovel, a windshield scraper, and water and snacks. Even if you aren’t traveling during the storm, it’s still a good idea to put together a car safety kit, weather can be unpredictable! Be sure to winterize your car in case you need to be out during the storm.

What to Do During a Blizzard

Now that you’re properly equipped, you might be wondering what to do when the storm hits. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep you safe.

  • Tune in to a weather radio station or other local news channels to keep up to date on the winter storm.
  • Bring your pets inside during severe winter weather and move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas.
  • If you’re concerned about your pipes freezing, running the water, even at a trickle, can help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Keep your thermostat set to the same temperate during the day and night. This can help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Open your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around your ​plumbing.
  • If your home loses power or heat during extreme cold, go to a designated public shelter.
  • Avoid driving in harsh winter conditions. If travel is absolutely necessary, make sure you have a car safety kit with you.

Big Blizzard Storm Facts

Winter storms are nothing to mess around with. There have been some snow storms that have managed to shut down entire cities!

  • In February 2003, cities from Washington DC to Boston were hit by a blizzard that dropped between 15-30 inches of snow began on February 14 and didn’t stop until February 19. Dubbed the President’s Day Blizzard, it caused $20 million in damage.
  • In February 2010, two blizzards broke snowfall records across the mid-Atlantic region. A whopping 32.4 inches of snow fell at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. After the second snowstorm hit in February, 68.1 percent of the country was covered by snow. This storm was referred to as Snowmageddon.
  • The first blizzard to be declared a Federal Emergency was in 1977 when a storm hit upstate New York and Southern Ohio. Although only about 12 inches of snow over 5 days accumulated, the winds were considered deadly.

Now that you’re ready to handle that winter storm headed your way, stay inside, sip a warm drink, and watch the snow fall. For more helpful articles like this, visit the Farm Bureau Financial Services Learning Center