Severe winter storms bring heavy snow, ice, strong winds, and freezing rains. Winter storms can delay or prevent employees and students from reaching the university, leading to a temporary disruption of administrative functions and classes until roads and parking areas can be cleared. Heavy snow and ice can also cause structural damage or power outages.
During the winter storm season, all personnel should listen to local forecasts to determine any impact the weather may have on their schedule. The following terms are used to describe the predicted weather.
Winter Storm Outlook: This is a statement issued when there is a chance of a major winter storms from 3 to 5 days in the future. This is meant to assist people with their long-range plans. However, since the outlook is issued so far in advance, the accuracy of the prediction may be limited.
Winter Storm Watch: This means there may be hazardous winter weather due to various elements such as heavy snow, sleet, or ice accumulation from freezing rain. In our region, heavy snow means 7 inches or more of accumulation in 24 hours or less. A "WATCH" is a long-range prediction. They are issued at least 12 hours before the hazardous winter weather is expected to begin. When the storm becomes imminent, or has a high probability of occurring, the watch will be upgraded to a "WARNING".
Winter Storm Warning: This is issued when a dangerous combination of heavy snow, with sleet and/or freezing rain, will occur or has a high probability of occurring within the next 12 hours.
Winter Weather Advisory: This is issued for a combination of snow, sleet, and/or freezing rain. Advisories, in general, are issued for weather conditions that are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous; these situations are normally not life threatening if caution is exercised.
Blizzard Warning: Large amounts of falling or blowing snow and sustained winds of at least 35 MPH are expected for several hours.
Traveler's Advisory: Indicates that severe winter conditions may make driving difficult or dangerous.
Personnel who must remain outdoors for considerable lengths of time should do the following:
Dress warmly. Wear loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent perspiration and chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellant. Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers generate warmth when they touch each other.
Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. Also take frequent breaks.
Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors. Try not to speak unless absolutely necessary.
Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.
Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulation value and transmits heat rapidly. Be aware of Frostbite and Hypothermia Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.
Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.
If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance. Warm the person's trunk first. Use your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood to the heart and lead to heart failure. Put the person in dry clothing and completely wrap them with a blanket.
Never give a frostbite or hypothermia victim something with caffeine or alcohol in it. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects that the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperatures.