By Jillian Stowe, Peoria City/County Health Department
Winter Storms in Central Illinois
Winter storms are extremely common in Central Illinois and have been one of the top winter hazards identified for our area. These storms create a higher risk for car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and even heart attacks from overexertion. Other than cold temperatures, winter storms can include windy conditions, freezing rain, sleet, and snow.
Alerts — Warning, Watch, or Advisory
Know the difference between the weather alerts—warning, watch, or advisory. They provide you with important information to use to take action, be prepared, or exercise caution for weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. The National Weather Service (NWS) is a great resource, along with your local news stations, to listen for emergency information and alerts. You can also sign up on your cellphone for emergency weather alerts.
Winter Storm Warning:
- 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. Time to take action.
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 Winter Storm. Time to be prepared.
Winter Weather Advisory:
- Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations. Time to exercise caution.
Prepare In Advance for Winter Weather
Here are several ways you can prepare for winter weather. From your home to your car, use these tips to identify what you could do to plan ahead for winter storms.
- Check the caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows.
- Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Don’t use grills or ovens to heat your home because of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Prepare an emergency kit for your home to include supplies that will last for several days:
– Water (one gallon per person per day for several days)
– Several days’ worth of non-perishable food
– Crank or battery-powered radio
– First aid kit
– Extra batteries for radios and flashlights if the power goes out
– Whistle to signal for help, if needed
– Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place, if necessary
– Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties
– Wrench or pliers
– Manual can opener
– Warm clothes and a blanket
- Keep your pets in mind while preparing your kits with pet food and extra water.
- Check on your friends and neighbors, in case they might need assistance.
- Prepare an emergency kit for your car:
– Jumper cables
– Sand for traction
– Warm clothes and blanket
– Bottled water
– Non-perishable snacks
- Keep your gas tank full when there are colder temperatures outside.
Stay Safe During Winter Weather
Many people love the snow with sledding, skiing, and snowmen. Use your new knowledge of winter weather alerts and keep safety up front and center during any weather changes.
- If the weather alerts expect bad weather, stay off the roads. If you become trapped in your car, stay inside until help arrives.
- Limit your time outside to try to avoid the potential of frostbite and hypothermia.
- If you need to go outside, dress in layers of warm clothing.
- Reduce your risk of a heart attack by avoiding overexertion when shoveling snow and walking in the snow.
Jillian Stowe is the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Planner at Peoria City/County Health Department and is responsible for planning, evaluating, and implementing emergency response planning activities in Peoria County.