Now that we're past the autumnal equinox, it won't be much longer before Old Man Winter comes knocking on our door with a formidable fist. Once again, many of us will be faced with treacherous road conditions, bitter cold temperatures, blinding blizzards, and all the danger that comes with extended power outages. The havoc that Mother Nature can wreak upon us during winter isn't confined to the northern states, as Texans can attest to from the deadly devastation that occurred this past February from a catastrophic winter storm. Here in Maine, the home of MEMIC's headquarters, it's said by many dyed-in-the-wool Mainers that there are only two seasons in the Pine Tree State – “wintah” and preparing for “wintah”. Indeed, the buzz of a distant chainsaw cutting cord wood can be heard well before the first frost. While winter weather can create a Currier & Ives landscape it can also bring about disaster and emergency for the unprepared.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Ready.gov website provides resources to help you get ready for winter weather. The site sets the stage for winter weather preparedness by stating “Winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms including blizzards can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds.” Just wonderful, ugh! The campaign website encourages us to know the three key winter weather terms as follows:
Winter Storm Warning - Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.
Winter Storm Watch - Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.
Winter Weather Advisory - Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.
All too soon, your local meteorologist might be using these terms in conjunction with a forecast map showing the boundary zones of predicted winter storm severity. Good grief! The Ready.gov site also contains cool content that includes a Winter Safety Social Media Toolkit complete with safety graphics and outreach material on emergency kits, outdoors and traveling, pets, heating safety, and power outage safety. There's even a link to a Winter Storm Information Sheet along with links to the National Weather Service and American Red Cross websites, and a link to a short animated video titled When The Sky Turns Gray. Quite clever! Indubitably, Ready.gov gives you a whole kit and caboodle of information intended to keep you warm and safe during a wicked bad winter storm. So, check out Ready.gov and get ready for winter weather before winter weather gets the best of you.
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