While the danger from winter weather varies across the state, most Georgians are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some point in their lives. That could mean snow or subfreezing temperatures, as well as strong winds or even ice or heavy rain storms. Winter storms, which often affect North Georgia, result in extreme cold, downed power lines and blocked roads and highways.
Prepare for the unexpected with tips below or from this American Sign Language video.
Before Winter Weather
- A storm can occur when family members are in different places, so develop a family communications plan.
- Make a Ready kit for at least three days of self-sufficiency.
- Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify winter weather.
- Keep space heater safety in mind: Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Remember to keep all heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes.
- Prepare your home:
- Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the warm air inside.
- Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector.
- If you have a wood burning fireplace, consider storing wood to keep you warm if winter weather knocks out your heat. Also, make sure you have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
- Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
- Extra blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter coats
- Fireplace or wood-burning stove with plenty of dry firewood, or a gas log fireplace
- Kerosene heater, with proper ventilation.
- Prepare your vehicle:
- Fully winterize your vehicle: Have a mechanic check antifreeze, brakes, heater and defroster, tires, and windshield wipers to ensure they are in good shape. Keep your gas tank at least half full.
- Keep an extra Ready kit in the trunk of your car. In addition to the basic essentials, consider adding a portable cell phone charger, ice scraper, extra blanket, sand for traction and jumper cables.
- Make sure you have a cell phone with an emergency charging option (car, solar, hand crank, etc.) in case of a power failure.
- People who depend on electricity to operate medical equipment should have alternate arrangements in place in case power is out for an extended period of time.
- Plan to check on elderly/disabled relatives and neighbors.
- Plan to bring pets inside.
- Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it in case you lose power.
- Fill a gallon container with water and place them in the freezer to help keep food cold.
During Winter Weather
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed of winter weather watches and warnings. Also monitor commercial radio, television, and the Internet.
- Check on elderly/disabled relatives and neighbors.
- Bring pets inside.
- Keep in mind that during a severe winter storm it could be hours, or even days, before emergency personnel are able to reach you. Don’t call 911 for information or to report a power outage.
- Allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
- Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
- Winter storms are often accompanied by power outages. Always exercise caution when using alternative light and heating sources:
- Use flashlights during power outages instead of candles to prevent the risk of fire, and have plenty of extra batteries on-hand.
- Never use an oven to heat your home. Never bring portable generators, camp stoves and grills into your home; they should only be used outside. Keep them at least 20 feet away from your home’s windows, doors and vents to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Follow tips for keeping food safe in an emergency.
- Watch for frostbite. Warning signs include white or grayish-yellow skin, numbness and skin that feels unusually firm or waxy. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately. If medical help is not available, get the victim to a warm location and immerse the affected area in warm water. Frostbitten areas are numb and can be easily burned so avoid using heating pads, fireplaces or radiators for warming. Do not rub the frostbitten area; this could cause more damage.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia, including shivering, memory loss, fumbling hands, slurred speech and drowsiness. If the victim’s body temperature is below 95 degrees, seek medical help immediately. If medical help is not available, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first using an electric blanket and if conscious, give the victim warm, non-alcoholic beverages.
- Follow directions from local officials about driving during snow and ice storms, and drive with caution.
Winter Weather Driving
Minimize travel during winter weather. If you can postpone your trip or if it is non-essential, stay in when the weather is really bad. If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
Learn more about winter weather driving…
Winter Weather Terms
Knowing winter weather terms helps you know when to put your personal preparedness plan into action. There are three key winter weather terms to know: winter storm watch, winter storm advisory and winter storm warning.
Learn more about winter weather terms…
No Power? No Problem! Recipes
If you are stuck at home without electricity after a disaster, making a decent meal can be challenging. To help, some of Georgia’s best chefs have provided delicious recipes featuring non-perishable foods, manual tools and alternative heating sources that can feed a family of four.
Learn more about recipes…