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Winter Storm Guide | What to do before, during, after the storm

Find out more about what to do during a power outage, how to safely warm your home, create a warming station, what to do if stranded in a car, and more.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Winter storms are dangerous and can even be deadly with cold temperatures, power outages, home heating dangers, and of course, icy roads and fallen trees.

Other risks also include car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion.

WFMY News 2 wants to make sure you prepare as much as you can now before a winter storm hits. That means making sure you have emergency supplies at home and in your car.

Find out more about how to prepare for a winter storm, how to report a power outage, power line safety, operating a generator, road travel, emergency car safety kit, what to do if stranded in a car, preventing frozen pipes, how to safely warm your home, creating a home warming station, what to know about frostbite and hypothermia and more.

The information below is provided in part by the CDC, ready.gov, WFMY News 2 and the American Red Cross.

Text keyword, SAFETY to 336-379-5775 to get this guide sent to your mobile phone. 

PREPARING FOR A WINTER STORM 

Be prepared for weather-related emergencies, including power outages.

  • Stock food that needs no cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers, extra bottles of water. 
  • Ensure that your cell phone is fully charged.
  • When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions.
  • Keep an up-to-date emergency kit including:
    • Battery-operated devices, such as a flashlight, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and lamps;
    • Extra batteries;
    • First-aid kit and extra medicine;
    • Baby items; and
    • Cat litter or sand for icy walkways.
  • Protect your family from carbon monoxide (CO).
    • Keep grills, camp stoves, and generators out of the house, basement and garage.
    • Locate generators at least 20 feet from the house.
    • Leave your home immediately if the CO detector sounds, and call 911.
  • Have a carbon monoxide alarm in place, especially if using alternative heating devices.
  • Keep emergency supplies in place at home, at work, and in the car.
  • Use safe heating devices.

WINTER STORM SAFETY CHECKLIST

Check out this winter storm safety checklist. You can use it as you get prepared for any winter storm. Just print it out and check off the list as you go through to get ready for a storm. 

REPORTING POWER OUTAGES

  • Duke Energy: 1-800-POWERON, 1-800-769-3766 Customers may also report an outage or view current outages online
  • Duke Energy Progress: 1-800-419-6356
  • NC Electrical Cooperatives: 1-888-411-7870
  • Energy United: 1-800-386-4833
  • Randolph Electric: 1-877-736-2633
  • Piedmont Electric: 1-800-449-2667
  • Surry-Yadkin Electric: 336-356-8241
  • City of Lexington Electric: 336-248-2337
  • City of High Point Electric: 336-883-3111

GENERATOR SAFETY 

You need to be especially careful during power outages, as the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fire increases. Here’s how you can keep your family safe.

  • Use portable gas generators safely. Read the label on your generator and the owner’s manual before a storm hits.
  • If you lose power, use your generator OUTSIDE your house ONLY, at least 20 feet from your home.
  • NEVER use a generator inside a home, garage or shed. Carbon monoxide from generators is poisonous and can KILL you in minutes. CO is called the “invisible killer” because you cannot see it or smell it.
  • Make sure you have working CO alarms in your home. They should be placed outside separate sleeping areas and on each floor of your home.
  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms too. Check the batteries! They should be placed on every level of your home, outside sleeping areas and inside each bedroom.
Credit: EPA
Where to safely use a fuel-powered portable generator with info. provided by the EPA

POWER LINE SAFETY

Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging during a storm. 

Consider all lines energized as well as trees or limbs in contact with lines. Report downed power lines to your local power company and to your police department.

If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car. If you must get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.

ROAD TRAVEL

Thousands of people are injured or killed every year in traffic accidents related to slippery roads from winter storms, according to the National Weather Service. Officials advise avoiding being on the road during and after a winter storm if possible. If you do have to travel make sure you stay updated on road conditions and forecast changes. Tell a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival.

BE CAREFUL WHILE DRIVING

  • Do not travel in low visibility conditions.
  • Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
  • Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow—this can cause your windshield to shatter.
  • If you must travel by car, use tire chains and take a mobile phone with you.
  • If you must travel, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late.
  • Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave.

Always carry extra warm clothing and blankets with you. Don’t rely on a car to provide enough heat. The car could break down.

EMERGENCY CAR KIT 

  • Extra coat
  • Blankets, sleeping bags, warm hats, coats, mittens, or gloves
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Flares
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Extra charger and cord for your phone
  • First aid kit 
  • Ice scraper for your windshield
  • Snow shovel 
  • Compass and maps
  • Booster cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction)
  • A pair of boots in case you need to walk anywhere*
  • Plastic bag for sanitation 

RELATED: 10 things you want in your car during winter weather (and a bonus item)

WHAT IF STRANDED IN CAR?

Follow these safety rules if you become stranded in your vehicle.

  • Make your vehicle visible to rescuers. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna, raise the hood (if it is not snowing), and turn on the inside overhead lights (when your engine is running).
  • Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area. Stay with your vehicle unless safety is no more than 100 yards away.
  • Keep your body warm. Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers. Huddle with other people if you can.
  • Stay awake and stay moving. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve circulation and stay warmer.
  • Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

PREVENTING FROZEN PIPES

Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes rupture or break. When you are expecting very cold or freezing temperatures:

  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Keep the temperature inside your home warm.
  • Allow heated air to reach pipes. For example, open cabinet doors beneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
  • If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hairdryer.
    • If you cannot thaw your pipes, or the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home.
  • As an emergency measure, if no other water is available, snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in the snow.

CREATE A HOME 'WARMING STATION'

When the power goes out there are a few things you should and shouldn’t do to keep your family warm and safe during the cold winter temperatures. Before an outage, plan to create a "warming station" for your home. 

Create a command center or warming station inside your house. If the power goes out, you’ll want to stay in one room as much as possible. Body heat will help keep the room warm if you keep the door closed as you use it. Try to pick a room with the fewest walls to the outside and windows like a bedroom or even a living area if it’s not surrounded by windows. 

RELATED: Turn your home into a ‘warming station’ during a winter power outage

For extra warmth set up a tent inside your command center room to create a warming station for your family. Yes, the same tent you take camping. A blanket fort can work too. That smaller area helps lock in your body heat. Tents are designed to trap body heat. They’re also small so they don’t take long to heat up.

If you have sleeping bags for camping then grab them to sleep in your tent along with other blankets.

Get a stockpile of heavy quilts or any other quilts you can use to keep warm. Wool blankets will be great for locking in heat.

Credit: Africa Studio - stock.adobe.com
Camping Tent

HEAT YOUR HOME SAFELY 

Make sure to take extra steps to heat your home safely.

If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and remember these safety tips:

  • Turning on the stove for heat is not safe; have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
    • Extra blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter coats
    • Fireplace that is up to code with plenty of dry firewood or a gas log fireplace
    • Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters. Check with your local fire department to make sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area.
  • Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Make sure to keep them away from any flammable materials, like curtains or blankets.
  • Use fireplaces, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak gas from the flue or exhaust into the indoor air space.
  • Have your heating system serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not burn paper in a fireplace.
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater.
  • Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use—don’t substitute.
  • Keep heat sources, like space heaters, at least 3 feet away from drapes, furniture, or bedding. Never cover your space heater.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
  • Make sure that the cord of an electric space heater is not a tripping hazard, but do not run the cord under carpets or rugs.
  • Avoid using extension cords to plug in your space heater.
  • If your space heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, do not use it.

FOOD DURING A POWER OUTAGE

One key mistake to avoid if the power goes out in winter is to try to use the winter weather as an informal outdoor refrigerator or freezer.

A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).


EXTREME COLD RISKS 

Hypothermia

Hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature) is a dangerous condition that can happen when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.

In adults, warning signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion or feeling very tired, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. In babies, signs include bright red, cold skin, and very low energy.

If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.
Frostbite

Frostbite is a type of injury caused by freezing. It can lead to a loss of feeling and color in the areas it affects, usually the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes.  Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation (removing the affected body part).

Signs of frostbite include a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, and numbness. If you notice signs of frostbite, seek medical care.

KEEPING WARM TIPS 

It's important to especially monitor babies and older adults for warmth if the power goes out. You want to make sure you do the following:

Babies

Infants younger than one should never sleep in a cold room because they lose body heat more easily than adults. Follow these tips to keep your baby safe and warm during the extreme cold:

  • Remove any pillows or other soft bedding. These can increase the risk of smothering and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Dress babies in warmer clothing such as footed pajamas, one-piece wearable blankets, or sleep sacks.
  • Try to maintain a warm temperature inside your home. If you’re not able to keep your home warm, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
  • In an emergency, you can keep your baby warm using your own body heat. If you must sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling on or smothering your baby.


Older Adults

Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. Check on elderly friends and neighbors often to make sure their homes are heated properly.

If you are over 65 years of age, check the temperature in your home often during extremely cold weather.

BEFORE ANY STORM 

TECH DEVICES 

Charge Up Your Tech Devices: With severe weather, there's always the possibility of power outages. 

Plan ahead and get your phones, laptops, and tablets charged up now. The more options you have when the power goes out, the longer you'll be able to keep in touch.

EMERGENCY INFO

Emergency Contacts: Program all your emergency contact numbers and email addresses into your mobile phone. 

It's important to include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as family members.

DOWNLOAD IT!

Download the WFMY News 2 App: If your power or cable goes out, you'll still be able to connect online. 

Download the app for live streaming video, updated weather forecasts, and reports from our field crews.

You can download the WFMY News 2 app a few ways, here are the options below:

►Text the word APP to 336-379-5775

►For iPhone | https://apple.co/3aaH6iM

►For Android | https://bit.ly/3aea9Sv

You can also scan the QR code to download the WFMY News 2 app. 

Credit: WFMY News 2
Scan the QR code to download the WFMY News 2 app

MOBILE WEATHER ALERTS 

Make sure severe weather notifications are turned on your phone! No matter whether you use an iPhone or Android, the process is the same.

STEP ONE: Open the WFMY News 2 App.

STEP TWO: Tap the gear in the top right corner.

STEP THREE: Tap “Notifications,” and find “Severe Weather Alerts.”

STEP FOUR: Make sure to turn on notifications, and you can pick how many alerts you get.

  • If you want more, tap the option with statements and advisories.
  • If you want fewer, tap the option with warnings only.

Consider leaving your phone near your bed so you'll be able to hear alerts headed your way overnight.

Credit: WFMY News 2
Get WFMY News 2 Weather Alerts




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