How to Stay Warm and Safe During a Winter Storm

The Christmas weekend is expected to have several big storms. As they can cause major damage, including power outages, icy roads, and communication issues, weather experts are urging everyone to be ready.

Key takeaways:
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    Major winter storms are expected to span across at least half of the United States this Christmas weekend.
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    This weekend, the National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want everyone to be ready for cold temperatures both inside and outside.
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    Some tips for staying warm this winter include dressing in layers, avoiding travel, and keeping your home as warm as possible.

A big arctic blast will drop temperatures to dangerously low levels in nearly half of the country, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). In fact, as severe winter weather hits much of the U.S., at least 12 states have put in place emergency and cold weather plans.

In the southern states, there are winter storm watches for Eastern Tennessee, Northern Georgia, Western North Carolina, and Southern Virginia from late Thursday until late Friday afternoon.

A "bomb cyclone" is set to bring heavy snow and blizzards to the Midwest that may include severe wind chills. By Friday night, the storm is likely to hit the Pacific Northwest. It will then move south over the weekend and hit California.

To protect yourself and your family this year, it is important to follow a few extra steps.

Indoor safety tips for winter storms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers helpful tips on how to stay safe and prepared for any winter storm:

Dress warmly and stay dry. This also helps you avoid frostbite, which happens when your blood vessels narrow, causing skin temperature to drop and ice crystals to form around and within your cells.

Keep water faucets slightly open to prevent pipes from freezing.

Check on your senior neighbors and friends. About 50 percent of people who die during winter storms are over 60.

Be mindful of infants in your home. Make sure infants under 1 aren't sleeping in cold rooms and have warm clothing.

Don’t heat with your stove. The CDC says to avoid using a stove to heat your home, as it's not safe. Instead, go for extra blankets, clothing layers, sleeping bags, or coats. Space heaters are also fine, as long as they work properly.

Outdoor safety tips for winter storms

Here are some tips from the NWS for when you must go outside during winter storms:

Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads or during distracting snow storms.

Stay dry and avoid walking in icy areas.

Never unleash your pets on snow or ice. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season.

If you are stranded outdoors, it is safest to stay in your vehicle and wait out the storm.

People most at-risk in winter storms

People who travel during winter storms are most at risk. About 70 percent of winter storm deaths happen due to car accidents. If you are able to avoid travel during severe winter weather, it’s best to stay indoors.

Another risk in winter storms occurs when people are stuck at home without heat for long periods of time. Take your or your loved one’s temperature to find out if they have hypothermia, which is when a person's body temperature drops to a dangerous level because they are exposed to extreme cold. If the temperature is below 95 degrees, get medical help right away. If you can't get help from a doctor, slowly warm the person up by starting with their extremities.

Finally, avoiding alcohol can be very helpful during winter storms. According to the CDC, drinking alcohol is often linked to hypothermia, because your mental awareness gets reduced, limiting your ability to notice signs of cold.

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