Winter Storms

Winter Storm


Winter storms can range from moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days.

Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet, and freezing rain. Some winter storms may affect the entire state or be geographically local to the southeastern coastal plains.


Sleet is formed when raindrops freeze to form an ice pellet before reaching the ground where it will bounce but does not usually stick to objects. However, sleet can accumulate, like snow, and create hazardous driving conditions.

Freezing Rain

Freezing rain is rain that falls to the ground where the temperature is below freezing and allows the rain to create a glaze of ice on roadways. An ice storm occurs when freezing rain falls and freezes upon impact with objects and creates hazards for power lines, roads, and trees.

Freeze Event

A freeze event is marked by low temperatures below the freezing point (32° Fahrenheit). 

Freeze events are particularly dangerous. Exposure to freezing events can result in wind chill, hypothermia, and frostbite. More than 50% of the cold injuries occur in people over the age of 60 and more than 75% are males. Around 20% of cold injuries occur in the home.

In the south, near-freezing temperatures are considered extreme cold. Freezing temperatures can be a danger to agricultural production especially when freezes occur late in the season and persist over an extended period of time.

Heavy Snow Event

 A heavy snow event is defined by the National Weather Service as an accumulation of 4 or more inches in 12 hours or less. A blizzard is the most severe form of a winter storm. It combines low temperatures, heavy snow, and winds of 35 miles per hour or more, which reduces visibility to a quarter-mile or less for at least three hours. Winter storms are often accompanied by sleet, freezing rain, or ice storm. Such freeze events are particularly hazardous as they create treacherous surfaces 

Winter Storm Safety

  1. Before A Winter Storm
  2. During A Winter Storm
  3. After A Winter Storm
  4. Terms to Know

Before Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

Get ready for a winter storm:

  • Restock or update your emergency kit. Always keep at least a seven-day supply of non-perishable food in your home and a gallon of water per person per day.
  • Add the following supplies to your emergency kit:
  • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a full list of suggested products.
  • Sand to make traction better.
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
  • Have plenty of heating fuel. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Have enough clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
  • Make a family communications plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so know how you will get in touch with one another, how you will get back together,  and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Listen to a NOAA weather radio or other local news channels for important information from the National Weather Service (NWS). Know when weather changes.
  • Try not to travel. If travel is needed, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
  • Bring pets inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
  • Make sure you have a good amount of heating fuel. Regular fuel sources may be cut off.
  • If you have a fireplace, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood.

Winterize your home:

  • Winterize your home to by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic.
  • Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may give shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment.
  • Clear rain gutters. Fix roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
  • Keep heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and checked every year.
  • Insulate pipes and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to keep from freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps keep pipes from freezing.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand. Make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires can be an extra risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the needed safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Hire a skilled contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to hold unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow - or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.

Winterize Your Vehicle:

Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:

  • Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
  • Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
  • Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
  • Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
  • Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
  • Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
  • Install good winter tires - Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.

Additional Resources

Want to learn more about winter weather and extreme cold? Visit these sites for more information: