A Guide to Natural Disasters: Blizzards

by Michelle Dong

According to the National Weather Service, winter storms are labeled blizzards when there are sustained winds of 35 mph or more and considerable blowing snow that reduces visibility to ¼ of a mile or less for at least three hours. Blizzard warnings are issued when the conditions of a blizzard are expected. With the lake effect snow in Cleveland, blizzards are particularly brutal. These severe snow storms form when cold air from the north meets warm air from the south, creating a storm system. Nearly every blizzard has resulted in at least a few deaths, so preparedness is key. Here are some tips to stay safe and warm during blizzards.

 

This should go without saying, but do not drive in a blizzard unless absolutely necessary. It can be almost impossible to drive because of whiteout conditions, which causes visibility to be really low. If driving is necessary, try keeping a Winter Emergency Kit in the car with water, jumper cables, non-perishable snacks, first-aid kit and a blanket or two.

 

During winter storms, low wind chill values can lead to frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is characterized by loss of feeling and can cause permanent damage. Hypothermia is a dangerous decrease in body temperature that causes uncontrollable shivering, memory lapses, and slow speech. If you have frostbite or hypothermia, get medical assistance immediately. If medical care is not available, try to warm the person up with blankets and dry clothes, but don’t warm the arms and legs first (this would drive cold blood to the heart and lead to heart failure!), and don’t give them hot beverages or food.

 

Severe winter storms can also cause power outages and frozen pipes. The heat may not work either. If this happens, wear layers and use an alternative heat source, such as a fireplace or a space heater.

 

Sources:

http://www.ussartf.org/blizzards.htm

http://w1.weather.gov/glossary/index.php

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/winter/index.shtml