Winter Weather Safety for the 2017 Season

Adam Roser

Graduate Assistant, Center for Disaster Research and Education

As the days become shorter and cold temperatures start to greet us on our way out
the door, there is only one thing on our minds: winter is on its way! With this in
mind, it is time to start thinking about how we can prepare for what Old Man Winter
decides to bring our way. The state of Pennsylvania kicks off its Winter Weather
Awareness Week to keep everyone informed and safe during this winter season.

The big question that arises this time of year is what kind of winter will we have as
we progress into the colder months? According to forecasts and model guidance
from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a La Niña type pattern is likely to form this
winter. With this particular weather phenomenon, we can expect a greater
probability of higher amounts of precipitation across western and central
Pennsylvania, as well as a higher probability for temperatures to run above average.
Given the outlook, we can still experience periods of cold temperatures and heavy
snows. With any long-term winter weather forecast, it is always a good idea to
prepare for all types of winter weather hazards. For further information on the
winter weather outlook and more, go to http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/.

Preparation is important when it comes to the winter season, starting right at home.
Some winter weather (most notably ice storms) can cause widespread power
outages. Making sure to have non-perishable food items, candles or flashlights,
batteries, and warm clothing at a minimum in case your power happens to go out
will give you the necessary resources to get through the snowy winter months.
Some of us often forget about what is happening outside our own homes when
major events like this occur.

If you have elderly individuals in your household or as
neighbors or others that may be in need of assistance, it’s always a good idea to
check on them to make sure they are adequately prepared. Many of these winter
storms that we have experienced throughout the Keystone state have been
associated with significant amounts of snow that have been known to keep most from venturing outside. One of these was the winter storm on January 23rd of last
year, which produced snowfall totals in upwards of two feet from Harrisburg to
Allentown! Always having a plan in place with the members of your household can
ensure a safer environment and will allow you to prepare for these different types of
winter weather events.

Blizzards and other types of winter weather can easily cause drivers to get delayed
and even stranded in some instances, especially those that live in areas with heavy
lake effect snow, where whiteout conditions can happen at a moment’s notice.
Making sure your car is in proper working order and supplied sufficiently will make
you prepared for when these storms hit. Packing and carrying items such as a small
emergency kit, extra pair of warm clothing, and an ice scraper in the car during the
winter season is a great start to being safe on the roadways during this snowy time
of year.

As the name suggests, one of the most important things we can do is stay aware of the weather
conditions that are forecasted to affect our area. In an age where technology is at our fingertips,
it is easier now more than ever to know what to prepare for and what kinds of
weather is coming our way.

The Department of Homeland Security’s website is a
useful tool to be informed about being winter weather aware (www.ready.gov/winterweather), as well as information from you local weather forecast office (www.weather.gov). Stay connected with meteorologists from your
local National Weather Service office and news stations via Twitter, Facebook, or
other means to receive the latest weather headlines. There are also some useful
apps, such as the FEMA app, that can provide information about being prepared
during severe weather events, as well as alert notifications. Utilizing these sources
of information and preparing for all types of winter weather hazards will keep you
and those around you safer and more secure this winter season.

Visit the following links for more information on how to stay safe this winter!
National Weather Service: www.weather.gov
Department of Homeland Security: www.ready.gov/winterweather
FEMA: www.fema.gov
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency: www.pema.pa.gov