Currently Explains: Snowstorm Safety

How do you stay safe in a snowstorm? Currently meteorologist’s share their top tips to help you prepared for the next big freeze.

Picture this: It’s a Friday morning and you’ve just woken up to a blanket—not of covers, no—but of snow. 

Like a kid on Christmas, you run to your window, where you find, not a cluster of gifts, but of anxious car owners frantically trying to dig themselves out of a financial—I mean weather-oriented—hole.

You throw on the warmest clothes you can find, and, if you own a vehicle or live in one, you join the cohort of frantic adults trying to defend their vehicles from snowflakes. By the time you’re done, you’re wet, tired, and hungry.

With more frustration than you’d care to admit, you accept defeat and admit that you were totally and utterly unprepared for a snow storm.

Thankfully, Currently, and our team of meteorologists, is here to tell you exactly how you can avoid making the same mistakes next time and be better prepared for your next storm.

Follow the storm

A snowstorm is a combination of heavy snow, blowing snow, and/or wind chills, according to the NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) National Severe Storms Laboratory. These storms can be devastating, leaving those who are unprepared or don’t have access to the proper resources, completely vulnerable.

In recent years, climate change has made extreme snow storms more frequent. According to NOAA, “the frequency of extreme snowstorms in the eastern two-thirds of the contiguous United States has increased over the past century. Approximately twice as many extreme U.S. snow storms occurred in the latter half of the 20th century than the first.”

The first step to being prepared, therefore, is to connect with your trusted sources of weather information, to stay up to date on when snow might hit your area.

Get ready

Megan Montgomery, our trusted meteorologist based in Colorado, says the best thing you can do to get prepared for a storm is to think about everything you might need ahead of time. 

If you live somewhere with a yard, this might mean stocking up on snow melts or making sure your shovel is sound, she says. If you live or spend a lot of time in your car, assembling a  “car kit,” containing extra blankets or water.

Megan recommends using something she calls the ‘4 Ps’ to make sure everyone, and everything, is accounted for leading up to the storm:

  1. Pipes
  2. Pets
  3. Plants
  4. People

“You have to think about those populations that can’t take care of themselves—pets need to be brought inside anytime it’s below 40 degrees F (4 degrees C ). Think about your neighbors—there are a lot of places where snow isn’t plowed because they’re not served by homeowners associations, so a lot of people can’t [access] sidewalks. What you want to think about is possibly shoveling the sidewalk farther from where you are located. That will go a long way.”

And it’s important to note that you could be saving lives in the process just by extending your neighbors a little compassion. A 2010 peer-reviewed study estimates, for example, that an average of nearly 12,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for shoveling-related incidents. 

Here are some other check-list items to prepare for the storm from our meteorologists: 

  1. Charge your devices — “If the power goes out, you’ll want to make sure you can notify the utility company, and then you’ll probably want to entertain yourself until the power comes back on.” (Gary Szatkowski, Philadelphia)
  2. Prepare your vehicle — “If you have to venture out, make sure your vehicle has four-wheel drive. Leave a lot of space between you and the vehicle in front of you.” (Tim McGill, Chicago)
    • (For folks without cars, make sure to regularly update and check the technology that you use to track local public transportation.)
  3. Ready your fridge — if you can, stock up your home with basic kitchen staples like bread, water, or milk.

Hunker down

Once the storm hits, your options are pretty slim. You can a) wait it out or b) have fun with it. Or, if you take a page from one of our meteorologist’s books, you can find a way to do both and pass the time while having fun.

“​​If it’s a snowy day, we make a whole pot of chicken soup. That’s the only time we do it. We watch special movies [and] make it a whole family event. — Megan Montgomery, Colorado

“My favorite activity for a snowstorm is (once the shoveling is done), to go out and experience the weather. Snow seems to smooth out all the rough edges of the world, and even sounds are muffled. Just looking and listening during a snowstorm reminds us of how amazing the world is.” —Gary Szatkowski

The Big Thaw

Before the snow melts and you return to your scheduled programming, be sure to check in with neighbors, make sure your pipes are not frozen, salt and clear your walkways and restock supplies for the next storm. 

After that, all thats left is to think about how, albeit normalized, spectacular it is that you just got to witness a rare weather event.