The thermometer may be hitting 70° this November, but we have already recorded snow this season. Consider that as a warning sign that winter is coming.
From November 1st through the 7th, the National Weather Service and New York State Office of Emergency Management are partnering up to highlight Winter Weather Awareness Week with different tips each day to help us prepare for anything the winter season has to offer. Below are summarized tips and tidbits from each day this week to keep in mind as we get closer to the winter.
…3 key tips to keep in mind…
- Have a Plan
When winter weather strikes, it can catch you off guard no matter where you are. Always have a plan ready to act on whether it’s at home or at the work place.
2. Keep stocked with supplies
Be prepared with enough perishable food, batteries and water to last for at least 3 days in case the power goes out, which may leave you without a working phone or electricity for days at a time.
3. Be aware
Pay attention to your local news and weather sources along with having a NOAA Weather radio handy to keep you up to date with the latest information. Click HERE for the latest forecast for Western NY and the Finger Lakes region.
…Winter Storm Preparedness…
In the middle of a winter storm it’s best to remain indoors rather than trying to venture outside. If you do have to go out make sure to travel with others when possible.
WHAT DO I DO IF I LOSE POWER?
If you lose power at any point during a heavy winter storm you should first be prepared to be without heat, electricity and the use of a landline. You should keep a good supply of non perishable food items, a supply of batteries, candles and flashlights on hand. It’s also recommended to check on neighbors, unplug and disconnect appliances, and go to a local community that does have power if in extreme cold and circumstances.
Always dress warmly for the cold temperatures such as wearing a hat, gloves, heavy jacket, scarf, etc. to prevent from hypothermia.
Visibility while driving can be easily reduced by snow, fog, and road salt build up. Road traction can also be reduced by ice and snow along with the ponding of water on roads.
Make sure your vehicle is ready to go for the winter. Get the engine tuned, battery checked, stock up on windshield wiper fluid, and make sure your breaks are in good working order. Perhaps put in a winter survival kit just to be safe and fill it with items such as a blanket, food and water, and even keep a shovel, scraper, and snow brush handy in the vehicle at all times.
Heavy snow can easily cause an enormous amount of problems such as stranding travelers, closing down airports and businesses, knocking down trees and power lines, and creating treacherous road travel.
Did you know? Heavy snow is defined for Western NY as 7 inches or more falling over a 12 hour period, OR 9 inches or more falling in a 24 hour period.
Weather systems known as Nor’easters and the local phenomenon of lake-effect can both create heavy snow events. Lake-effect snow can be dangerous as it contains narrow bands of snow that often create changeable conditions in a matter of seconds, while Nor’easters are systems that can create widespread impacts across multiple areas and even states.
Early season snow events can and will happen. One of these events happened back in November of 2014 where parts of the Niagara Frontier received around 7 feet of snow, snow rates falling several inches per hour, and even intense lake effect snow coupled with thunder and lightning.
The Blizzard of 1977 is marked as the worst winter storm event to impact the region. Nearly an entire foot of snow fell in total with wind gusts up to 75 mph recorded, snow drifts fell 20+ feet deep, thousands of people were stranded, and over 20+ lost their lives. This just goes to show that winter storms can be powerful and are worth being as prepared as possible for.
New York State experiences some of highest frequencies of freezing rain events across the entire country; a major factor having to do with our unique mountainous landscape and variable climate.
Ice storms can be one of the most dangerous hazards as they can bring down power lines, trees and inhibit other communication sources if accumulations are heavy enough.
Freezing rain being the main culprit of ice events can disrupt communities for days at a time. Even small accumulations of ice of around a quarter of an inch can create slippery surfaces on roads and driveways, and especially on bridges and overpasses since they can freeze much faster.
…Flooding and Ice Jams…
Flooding is actually a common hazard during the winter months in New York State. Why? If temperatures thaw enough to create snowmelt and you pair that with any additional rainfall, flooding can quickly become a problem for rivers and local streams.
In January of 1966 where a 2 foot pack of snow thawed and melted, Western NY became engulfed with 3 inches of water, and again in January of 1998 where both the Allegheny and Genesee rivers flooded significantly.
Ice jams can also be a problem during the winter when ice forms over rivers and streams during long periods of freezing temperatures. The ice that causes these jams usually grow to be a couple inches thick and can become dislodged after an increase in the river flow due to excessive rain or snowmelt. As the flow of water becomes too overwhelming for the ice, it breaks into large pieces and acts like a damn, trapping water at the edge of the water basin. This becomes a dangerous time bomb when this dam suddenly breaks and releases a large amount of water downstream in the process.
...Watches, Warnings, and Advisories...
Winter Storm Watch
– Issued in advance of an incoming storm system containing heavy snow, ice, or blizzard-like conditions such as blowing snow, high winds or heavy lake effect snow.
Winter Storm Warning
– Issued when there is a high probability of heavy snow, ice, sleet and/or freezing rain within the next 48 hours or so. Weather warnings of any kind will indicate the imminent probability of the described event in the short term.
Winter Weather Advisory
– Issued when the weather is expected to create nothing more than a significant inconvenience rather than life threatening situation. For these events you should still plan ahead and take the proper precautions as multiple inches up to half a foot of snow could be expected, along with freezing drizzle or rain, fog, wind, or blowing snow. This can still create very hazardous conditions and should be taken just as seriously.
Wind Chill Warning
– Issued when temperatures are expected to feel like -25°. Advisories for wind chill are issued for temperatures that will feel like -15°.
With any watch, warning or advisory you should always be prepared to take action so you can stay as safe as possible during the winter season.
~Meteorologist Christine Gregory