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Fact Sheet


Winter storms typically bring snow, ice, dangerously cold temperatures and hazardous driving conditions. For your protection and that of your family, it is vital that you be prepared.

What You Can Do to Prepare

Plan Ahead
Ensure that each member of your family has a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and insulated, water-resistant boots. Have extra blankets handy. Assemble a disaster supply kit for the home. Include:
- first aid kit and necessary medications
- battery-powered flashlight and radio
- extra batteries
- canned food and non-electric can opener
- bottled water

Winterize your car. Have your battery, tires and coolant system checked. Carry plenty of extra windshield washer fluid. When possible, keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent fuel line freeze-up.

Assemble a winter travel survival kit for your car. Travel with a cell phone to use in case of emergency.

Stay Tuned for Storm Information
Listen to your local TV and radio stations for current storm information.

Know what winter storm watches, warnings and blizzards are:
- A winter storm WATCH indicates the possibility of a winter storm in your area.
- A WARNING occurs when a winter storm actually is headed toward you.
- A BLIZZARD means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chills are shelter immediately!

During a Winter Storm Watch
Stay tuned for continuing information. Listen to your local TV and radio stations for storm updates. Be aware of changing weather conditions.
Travel only if necessary. If you must travel, be sure to have your winter travel survival kit. Keep your gas tank as full as possible for emergency use, as well as to avoid fuel line freeze-up. And, tell someone where you are going, what your route will be, and when you expect to arrive.

During a Winter Storm Warning
Stay indoors. If you must go outside, dress in layers. Several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Also, remember to wear gloves and a hat. During severely cold weather, place a covering over your mouth to protect your lungs.
Know the hazards of windchill. Windchill combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin. As wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, reducing body temperature.

When Shoveling After a Storm, Use Caution

It's physically demanding work, so avoid overexertion and be sure to take frequent breaks. If possible, push the snow aside rather than lifting. When lifting, bend your knees, not your back. Let your leg muscles do the work.

If You Get Stranded While Traveling
Stay with your vehicle. Do not try to walk to safety. Disorientation occurs quickly in cold temperatures and wind-driven snow.

Make yourself visible Tie a brightly colored (preferably red) banner or cloth on your antenna or hang it out a window. After the snowfall ends, raise the hood of your engine to indicate trouble.

Run vehicle for ten minutes every hour. Operate the heater and keep your overhead light on to remain visible for rescuers. Keep the exhaust pipe clear to prevent fumes from entering the vehicle, and always leave a down-wind window open slightly to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, keep the radiator free of snow to prevent overheating.

Keep moving. From time to time vigorously move your arms, fingers, legs and toes to keep blood circulating and to stay warm. If you are with others, huddle together for warmth and sleep in shifts.

If you must leave your vehicle after the storm ends, write your name, address, phone number and destination on a piece of paper and leave it in a very visible location in the vehicle.

American Red Cross

Contact the South Dakota Safety Council at
or phone 605-361-7785 or 1-800-952-5539.