A myriad of people have the misconception that winter storms are snow storms. While this is true in one aspect, there are a vast array of other types of weather which is associated with winter storms. Many of these can be very hazardous and put lives at risk. Weather patterns can be extremely diverse from one state to the next, one country to the next. No two storms are exactly alike and no one can be 100% certain of the outcome of winter storms. They can bring havoc, destruction, death, despair and heartache at times.
Torrential rain can turn into a major concern for those areas where annual rainfall is usually very low. Flash flooding can occur and houses, cars, livestock and people can be swept away in a matter of minutes. More so when storm water channels are not constructed to cater for excess water. Most times when flooding occurs in these areas which seldom know heavy rain, a host of insurance agencies do not cover the damage. They often deem the flash floods as an act of God.
Heavy snowfall in areas where snowfall is quite rare, can have drivers totally unprepared for the roads. Often times, snow chains are not stored in car boots and drivers risk their lives and the lives of their passengers by persevering and continuing to travel. The drift off the road into snow banks, sometimes way out of town far away from any type of assistance at all. Other times blizzards have travellers and home owners alike at a standstill. Travellers are stuff wherever they happen to be at the time, in airports or on lonely roads in hire cars or their own vehicles.
When not prepared for these unexpected situations one can certainly go into a state of panic. At times, unexpected blizzards have people taking any type of respite they can. Sometimes in abandoned homes, farms, halls etc which is minus any type of heating whatsoever. Those trapped in cars during blizzards face death by hypothermia. Blizzards can last for days, even weeks at times. Without food and water one can starve or die of thirst.
Black ice on roads is another danger which winter storms bring. Unfortunately one is often on the black ice without any warning whatsoever. Black ice is so hard to see at times, it is virtually transparent. Often called glare ice or clear ice, it is a thin coating of glazed ice on a surface. It is not truly black but when on bitumen roads it is almost impossible to see. So many car accidents occur on black ice. Skidding into each other, skidding off embankments and so forth.
Heavy snow causes a host of car accidents as well. Visibility is diminished and the gusts of whirling snow reduces visibility even more. When one is driving in snow, snow chains are not optional, they are a must. One should proceed with caution and drive slower than the recommended speed limit. Have your lights on low and be more aware of oncoming vehicles and those behind you. Drive with extreme caution.
In extreme cold, the chances of hypothermia are high. Those heading outdoors or even driving in the cold should dress in layers. If the body becomes a little too hot one can take off a layer of clothing. Yet if one is not dressed appropriately for the weather, they place themselves at great risk. Gloves will protect the hands from frostbite and so will thermal underwear, thermal socks, warm hats and scarves. The cold winds can virtually take your breath away so do keep the mouth and nose covered as well. Too much air forced into the nasal cavity and mouth can bring about a host of ailments. The ears need protecting as well.
High winds can be detrimental to one’s safety. These can down trees, power lines, flimsy sheds and barns. High winds can blow unsecured items into your path, damage structural features of homes, buildings and car ports. A host of various structures can collapse pinning a person beneath them. Cars can be crushed as unsecured items get blown into the air and long on top of them. Sheets of building material can be ripped from buildings and smash into cars and so forth.
Heavy snowfall can settle on cars, homes and other structures. This can cause roofs to cave in, basically collapsing under the weight. Anyone standing beneath can face a fatal accident. Walls of snow have been known to blocks exit ways in buildings and even block housing air vents at times. Often times people are out in the snow too long shovelling snow. People have heart attacks from the exertion and cold mixed together. Statistics state that most deaths from winter storms are not always directly related to the storm itself.
People die in traffic accidents on the icy roads. They die of heart attacks whilst shovelling snow. Recent observations in regards to threats to safety during winter storms show that approximately 70% of danger is associated with automobiles, 25% is people trapped in snowstorms and more often than not, danger is to men over 40 years of age driving in winter storms. Danger to people not in vehicles but exposed to extreme cold, is said to be to 50% of people who are over 60 years of age. 20% of dangers are associated within the home.
Being able to fully comprehend winter weather precipitation is a must. Listening to weather reports on television and radios is useless unless one fully comprehends what is being said. Flurries relate to light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation, just light dusting is all that is expected. Showers, snow falling at varying intensities for short periods of time. There may be some accumulation. Bowing snow, means wind driven rain which reduces visibility and can cause significant drifting.
Squalls relate to brief, intense snow shower which are accompanied by gusty strong winds. Significant accumulation is a possibility. Squalls are quite frequent in the Great Lakes area. Blizzards are winds over 35 mph with blowing snow and fallen snow which reduces visibility to almost zero. Sleet is raindrops which freeze to pellets prior to hitting the ground. This can cause hazard to motorists. If caught in a winter storm find shelter immediately, stay dry as possible. Cover all exposed parts of the body as best you can.
Prepare a lean-to or wind break if needed. Try to attract attention and build afire for heat if you can. Place rocks around the fire to absorb the heat. Do not attempt to eat the snow, melt it first otherwise it will reduce your body temperature. Stay in your vehicle, run the motor every hour for ten minutes to maintain some heat. Open the car window a little every few minutes. Check that the exhaust is not blocked and make yourself visible to rescuers. Exercise from time to time. Keep ahead of winter storms by listening to the latest weather reports, warning and advisories.