Heavy snow, ice storms and frigid temperatures are the hallmarks of most Illinois winters. While we can't prevent winter weather, being prepared can help you stay safe and warm at your home and on the road. Start by learning the various terms the National Weather Service uses to alert the public to potential weather threats. Some of those terms include:
Winter Storm Watch: Indicates severe winter weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible within the next day or two.
Winter Storm Warning: Indicates heavy snow (greater than six inches), heavy sleet (1/2 inch or greater) or a combination of winter weather hazards are highly likely or occurring.
Ice Storm Warning: Heavy accumulations of ice will create extremely dangerous travel conditions, damage trees and likely cause extended power outages.
Wind Chill Warning: Life threatening wind chills of minus 25 degrees or colder.
Winter travel can be hazardous, so it's important to have a Winter Storm Survival Kit in your vehicle. Stock your kit with items that will help you survive in case you are stranded in your vehicle for several hours. Such items include:
If you must travel during severe winter weather, check the latest weather conditions along your planned travel route, travel during daylight hours on main roads, ensure your Winter Storm Survival Kit is packed and provide your itinerary to a friend, relative or co-worker.
If you become stranded along the roadside, stay in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow, and then run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm.
Extreme cold temperatures are especially dangerous. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure of the skin that can permanently damage fingers, toes, the nose and ear lobes. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees that can cause slurred speech, incoherence, memory loss, disorientation, uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness, repeated stumbling and apparent exhaustion.
The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the combined effects of wind speed and cold temperatures. Wind chill impacts people and living things; it does not apply to non-living objects, such as cars and pipes.
You can learn more about how to stay safe during severe winter weather by checking out IEMA's Winter Storm Preparedness Guide.