This Halloween was a frigid one, with a rind of snow and freezing rain attaching itself to drooping front porch pumpkins across Northeast Kansas.
The winds blew, the sleety mix swirled, and temperatures dropped well below freezing. Children tugged on snow boots before making their unsteady way on slippery sidewalks, holding their treat pails in mittened hands.
The sudden onslaught of winter-like conditions should serve as a helpful reminder to us all to have a plan in place for severe cold. Being caught flat-footed could not only leave you shivering but possibly prove fatal.
That’s why it strikes us as the ideal time to turn to our friends — everyone’s friends, really — at the National Weather Service. In the section of its website about winter (helpfully located at weather.gov/safety/winter), the NWS outlines tips that everyone should remember as the wintry veil descends.
• Make sure to dress warmly. When the temperatures go below freezing, you’ll want more than an extra layer. You could well need two or three, along with gloves and an ear-protecting hat, not to mention boots.
• Know the different levels of warning for winter weather. A weather storm advisory is the most general, followed by a winter storm watch and topped by the winter storm warning. The last expresses high confidence on the part of meteorologists that “heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain” is on the way.
• Make sure that you have an emergency supply kit for your car. That includes first aid kids, blankets, food, jumper cables, a phone charger, tow rope, snow shovel or brush, warm clothes, flares, and so one. Put simply, you never know when your car may not be able to start or will be delayed because of winter weather.
• Make sure to protect yourself during a storm. The NWS website offers helpful tips if you’re caught outside, in your car or in your home. You will want to act carefully and deliberately, and make sure you’re as safe as possible. Keep warm, close cracks and wear layers.
• After the storm, make sure to check on isolated neighbors or others who might need help. Make sure that you and your own home are fine first, of course. You will also want to be aware of road hazards and closures.
Much more information is available on the NWS website. Taken as a whole, the organization’s advice offers a valuable template to follow during the chill days and nights of winter. Make sure you’re not caught unaware.