Part of living in Minnesota, Iowa, or Wisconsin is dealing with the cold temperatures and snow during the winter months.
Keeping you and your family safe can be critical during extremely cold weather or heavy snowfall.
Here are some tips to help this winter:
On the road - If you are traveling make sure you have a winter emergency kit in your vehicle. Items to include in the kit are candles and matches, a flashlight, pocket knife, snacks, a cell phone adapter, a blanket and extra clothing. Scroll down for additional tips on winter preparedness.
Health Risks - With wind chills below freezing or below zero, there is an increased risk of frostbite and hypothermia. If you must venture outdoors, make sure you wear a hat and gloves. Frostbite can happen in less than 30 minutes of exposure to those conditions. Symptoms include a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, ear tips and tip of the nose. Limit your time outside. If you see these signs, seek medical care immediately.
Hypothermia is also a danger in these conditions. That is when your body temperature drops below 95°F. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness. Again, limit your outdoor activity and seek medical care if you detect these symptoms.
Carbon Monoxide Danger - Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 20,000 people visit the emergency room and nearly 500 are killed each year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Make sure you have working CO detectors. All homes and duplexes in Wisconsin are required to have CO detectors on every level including the basement, but not the attic or storage areas. Have your furnace or wood-burning stove inspected annually to make sure it is structurally and functionally sound and vents properly to the outside of your home.
Never run a gasoline or propane heater or a grill (gas or charcoal) inside your home or an unventilated garage. Any heating system that burns fuel will produce carbon monoxide. Use a battery-powered detector where you have fuel burning devices but no electric outlets, such as in tents, cabins, RVs, and boats with enclosed cabins. Never run a car in an enclosed space. If a vehicle is running, you must have a door open to the outside. Generators should be run a safe distance from the home. Never run a generator in the home or garage, or right next to windows or doors.
Breathing carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in the blood and can cause death within minutes at high levels. Symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide are often mistaken for the flu and include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath/chest pain, nausea/vomiting, and confusion. If you experience any of these symptoms, or your carbon monoxide detector sounds an alarm, head outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.
Pet care - While our pets might seem to have built-in, warm winter coats, they too are sensitive to the elements. It is recommended to bring them indoors during this bitter weather. Dogs and cats can get frost bitten ears, nose and feet if left outside during bitter cold weather. Chemicals used to melt snow and ice can also irritate pets' paws - be sure to keep anti-freeze, salt and other poisons away from pets.
What is the difference between watches and warnings during winter? Here's how the National Weather Service defines them:
Winter Storm Warning: Heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Issued 12-24 hours in advance
Winter Storm Watch: An alert that a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy sleet, or heavy freezing rain is possible. Comes out 12-48 hours before start of Winter Storm.
Winter Weather Advisory: A Winter Weather Advisory will be issued when 2 to 4 inches of snow, alone or in combination with sleet and freezing rain, is expected to cause a significant inconvenience, but not serious enough to warrant a warning.
Blizzard Warning: Issued for winds of +35 mph, with falling or blowing snow reducing visibilities of 1/4 mile or less.
Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.
Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures can be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure-may lead to hazardous exposure.