Fort McCoy News February 9, 2018

Be ready for winter before emergencies strike

Winter is the signature season of Wisconsin. It's normally a long season of cold temperatures, snow, and ice that can last from November through April. Yet winter doesn't slow Wisconsinites down.

In fact, Wisconsinites are just as mobile, social, and active during winter as they are during the summer months — both indoors and outdoors. But in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable winter, it is critical to be informed and aware of the potential risks and hazards associated with winter weather and how to avoid them.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Weather Service urges people to keep abreast of local forecasts and warnings by listening to NOAA weather radios, commercial radio stations, television, and social media and familiarize themselves with key weather terminology.

Winter graphic

• A winter storm warning is issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring.

Winter storm warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

• A winter storm watch alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter storm watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a storm.

• A hazardous weather outlook provides up to seven days' notice of any hazardous weather, including winter storms. It is issued daily, with more frequent updates whenever the outlook changes.

A blizzard warning is issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below one-quarter mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.

• A wind chill warning is issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

• A wind chill advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure, and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure.

• Winter weather advisories are issued when accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.

• A dense fog advisory is issued when fog will reduce visibility to one-quarter mile or less over a widespread area.

• Snow flurries are light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or a light dusting is all that is expected.

• Snow showers are snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.

• Blowing snow is wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

• Sleet is rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.

• Freezing rain is rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.

Extended exposure to extremely cold temperatures can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants and elderly people are most susceptible.

Wind chill is not the actual temperature but rather how wind and cold feel on exposed skin.

As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the core body temperature. A wind chill of 20 below zero will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes.

Frostbite is localized damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. The condition causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.

Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95. It can kill. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion.

If traveling by car, plan carefully and listen to the radio or television for the latest weather forecasts and road conditions. If bad weather is forecast, drive only if absolutely necessary. If stranded, stay with the vehicle and call for assistance. Always keep a well-stocked emergency supply kit in the vehicle.

Winter is a great time to be in Wisconsin and with a little knowledge and taking the time to prepare, winter can be just as enjoyable as any other season.

Additional information is available online from:

• https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather.

• the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter.

• the American Red Cross — http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/typesof-emergencies/winter-storm.

• Ready Army — www.ready.army.mil.

Prepare strong. Get an emergency supply kit with enough supplies for at least three days, make an emergency plan with Family, and be informed about what might happen.

The Fort McCoy Emergency Management office is part of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security. Call 608-388-2763 for more information.

   (Article prepared by Fort McCoy Emergency Management.)