Severe Winter Weather Winter storms can be beautiful and deadly. They can include blizzards, freezing sleet, dangerous combinations of temperatures and wind.
Extreme cold temperatures are a big danger during winter months in Missouri and Illinois. Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite, hypothermia, or in extreme cases death. In fact, excessive cold is one of the leading weather-related causes of death across the country. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to extreme cold. Freezing temperatures also cause damage to crops and property.
How winter storms bring rain, ice and snow
Winter storms normally bring ordinary rain, freezing rain and sleet as well as snow.
All extratropical storms are a mixture of warm and cold air. In parts of the storm, especially the areas ahead of a warm front, warm air is flowing over cold air near the ground.
The result is a layer of air that's above 32 degrees Fahrenheit between a layer of colder air near the ground and a layer of colder air higher up. Precipitation that begins as snow in the higher level of colder air melts into rain in the layer of air that's above the melting point of ice - 32 degrees F.
In places where the warmer air extends to the ground, the precipitation will fall as rain. If the layer of cold air near the ground is relatively thin and if things on the ground are below 32 degrees, the falling rain cools below 32 degrees but doesn't turn into ice until it hits something - this is freezing rain.
When the layer of cold air is thick enough, the falling rain freezes into ice pellets, which are generally called sleet.
In places where there is no layer of warm air, the snow falls all of the way to the ground as snow.
Often, rain, freezing rain and snow fall on the same places as a storm moves by.
Severe Winter Weather Terms
Outlook - The Hazardous Weather Outlook (HWOLSX, FLUS43 KLSX) will contain any and all information pertaining to potential winter storms that may occur in the latter days of the forecast.
Watch - A watch is used when the risk of hazardous winter weather has increased significantly, there is a strong possibility it will reach warning criteria, and falls in the 12 to 48 hour portion of the forecast.
Warning - These products are issued when a hazardous event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence. Some of the criteria needed include:
Snow: 6 inches in 12 hours, 4 inches in 12 hours in Southeast Missouri
Ice: ice accumulation of 1/4 inch or more..
Wind Chill: wind chill temperature of -25 degrees F or lower: A Wind Chill Advisory is issued for wind chills of -15 to -24
High Wind: sustained wind 40 mph or more for 1 hour or longer or gust to 58 mph
A Winter Storm Warning can also be issued when lesser amounts of any of the above will occur, but the combination will create life threatening conditions.
Advisory - These are issued for lesser events that while presenting an inconvenience, do not pose an immediate threat of death, injury, or significant property damage.
Statements - These are issued at frequent intervals to update and provide additional information pertaining to watches, warnings, or advisories.
Short Term Forecasts - These are issued at frequent intervals to provide information on current weather and expected conditions over the next 1 - 6 hours.
In order to keep things simple, the National Weather Service in St. Louis will issue the following winter weather notifications:
Winter Storm Watch
Winter Storm Warning
Ice Storm Warning
Winter Weather Advisory
Winter storm warnings and advisories will explain what the primary hazard will be. i.e. snow, sleet, freezing rain, or a combination.
Frostbite occurs when the skin becomes cold enough to actually freeze. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the nose are symptoms of frostbite.
Hypothermia (Low Body Temperature) can occur during long periods of exposure when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees F. A person will become disoriented, confused, and shiver uncontrollably, eventually leading to drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In severe cases, death is possible.
Severe Winter Weather Safety Tips
Keep ahead of advancing winter weather by staying tuned to NewsChannel 5 and ksdk.com.
An ice storm will take down power lines knocking out electricity. Check battery powered equipment before the storm arrives.
Check your food and stock an extra supply. Include food that requires no cooking in case of power failure. If there are infants or people who need special medication at home, make sure you have a supply of the proper food and medicine. Make sure pets and animals have shelter and a water supply.
If appropriate, check your supply of heating fuel. Fuel carriers may not be able to reach you due to closed roads.
Be careful when using fireplace, stoves, or space heaters. Proper ventilation is essential to avoid a deadly build-up of carbon monoxide. Don't use charcoal inside as it gives off large amounts of carbon monoxide. Keep flammable material away from space heaters and do not overload electric circuits.
Dress for the conditions when outdoors. Wear several layers of light-weight, warn clothing: layers can be removed to prevent perspiring and subsequent chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven, waterproof and hooded. For the hands, mittens, snub at the wrists, offer better protection than fingered gloves.
Don't kill yourself shoveling snow. It is extremely hard work for anyone in less than prime physical condition. It can bring on a heart attack, a major cause of death during and after winter storms.
On The Road
Your automobile can be your best friend or worst enemy during winter storms. Get your car winterized before winter arrives. The following items should be checked; ignition system, cooling system, fuel system, battery, lights, tires, heater, brakes, wipers, defroster, oil, exhaust. Keep water out of your fuel tank by keeping it full.
If you travel often during winter, carry a winter storm kit in you car. It should include; flashlight, windshield scraper, paper towels, extra clothes, matches/candles, booster cables, compass, maps, sand, chains, blankets, high calorie non-perishable food.
Winter travel by car is serious business. If the storm exceeds or tests your driving ability, seek available shelter immediately.
Plan your travel. Try not to travel alone and drive in convoy when possible.
Drive carefully and defensively. Pump your breaks when trying to stop on snow or ice covered roads.
Children can be especially susceptible to the dangers associated with winter weather. Their youthful enthusiasm often takes over when common sense should prevail.
School administrators and principals need to be sensitive to the dangers winter weather can pose to children and be prepared. Winter weather procedures and practices need to be established before the onset of winter cold. The following items should be considered when formulating a winter weather safety plan:
All schools should have ready access to current weather information. If the school is in a county covered by NOAA Weather Radio, that would be the best source. Commercial media can also be monitored. Arrangements can also be made with local law enforcement agencies to have critical winter weather forecasts relayed to the school.
All schools need to have a functional plan in regard to closures due to snow, ice, or extreme cold.
During the winter months, guidelines need to be established regarding outside recess. Temperatures and wind chills need to be monitored and criteria set as to when outside recess will be allowed.
School bus drivers should receive extra training on driving during winter weather. Snow and ice can often accumulate quickly and unexpectedly on roads creating dangerous driving conditions.
With many households having two working parents today, it may be necessary for some children to be brought to school early. Schools should make provisions to allow children inside school buildings as early as possible during cold weather.