January 20, 2016  

Threat of East Coast storm serves as reminder to prepare for winter

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The potential of a major, crippling snowstorm headed for the East Coast this weekend serves as a reminder for everyone in snow-prone areas to prepare for the worst, Purdue Extension disaster education specialist Steve Cain says.

"Winter storms are deceptive killers," he said.

 Cain noted that winter storms each year cause death in many ways, such as in traffic accidents; by cardiac arrest, hypothermia and asphyxiation; and by falling trees or roofs and just falling on slippery ice.

"Fortunately, there are many resources in addition to weather forecasting to help you prepare," Cain said.

The Purdue Extension Disaster Education Network offers resources on winter weather at https://ag.purdue.edu/extension/eden/Pages/winter.aspx. Also, the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers resources at its Winter Storms and Extreme Cold Web page at http://www.ready.gov/winter-weather. Information also is available for download on FEMA's mobile app at http://www.fema.gov/mobile-app.

Cain also said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has weather reports on radio. He said a battery-powered NOAA Weather radio can be invaluable in getting the most up to date information if electricity service is cut.

"Plan for what you will do if your power goes out," he advised. "How will you stay warm and prepare food and have drinkable water?"

Cain said he hears almost every year about someone or an entire family dying because they didn't use a proper method of heating their home when the power went out.

"Extra care in handling fuels when refueling such things as kerosene heaters is a must," he said. "Improper handling has caused home fires."

He also said to make sure the source of heat is well ventilated. Some people have died because they put a generator in their garage.

"Depending on the connection between the garage and your house, fumes can go into the attic and the living area and asphyxiate the people inside," he said.

Cain also recommended:

* Checking with others to see if they need assistance. "Elderly people and people with mobility issues are often struck the hardest by winter storms. They may not be able to do the right thing to protect themselves. If you plan properly, you can help them, too."

* Listen to local authorities about driving conditions. "Accidents are a leading cause of death in winter storms. Seriously evaluate the need for travel in a storm. You may be risking your life."

* Make sure your car is maintained and properly equipped for winter driving. "Some deaths in cars during a winter storm have resulted from a car that was inadequately maintained. This can result in sliding or a car that quits in the middle of the storm, putting you at higher risk to hypothermia."

* Don't travel, even just walking outside, if you can avoid it. "Traveling increases the chance that you might slip and fall, and these accidents can result in a broken arm and even death. Sprinkle salt, sand or cat litter onto surfaces or just stay indoors until the storm has passed."

* Be aware of trees around you. "Trees falling on people and cars have caused death during a winter storm."

Cain said although winter storms can cause serious problems, there are times when snow can be appreciated.   

"If you prepare well for winter storms, you just might be able to enjoy the beautiful snow after the storm," he said.           

Writer: Keith Robinson, 765-494-2722, robins89@purdue.edu 

Source: Steve Cain, 765-494-8410, cain@purdue.edu

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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