Stay safe when the snow blows

"winter" writen in the snow on a car window

Winter weather can be damaging and may create treacherous driving conditions. Severe winter storms, such as the one projected to hit Southern Ontario on Thursday evening, can cause power outages, transportation disruptions and possibly create home or personal safety issues.

"winter" writen in the snow on a car windowWinter storms can range from a moderate snowfall 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.

The staff in York’s Office of Emergency Preparedness have compiled a series of safety tips that can help minimize your risk of injury.

Children, senior citizens, individuals with chronic health problems, persons with special needs, outdoor workers and those who work out vigorously are especially vulnerable to extreme cold. Prolonged exposure to the cold may be harmful to your health because it can cause frostbite or hypothermia. Listen to local radio and television weather forecasts for extreme cold weather warnings and take precautions.

Remember to plan ahead. Outdoor workers should schedule “warm-up breaks” and athletes or those with health conditions should reduce the amount of time they are involved in outdoor activities.

Dress in layers with an outer layer that is wind resistant, and wear a hat, mittens or gloves. Keep your face warm with a scarf or facemask. Wear warm, waterproof footwear and cover up as much exposed skin as possible.

Remember that wet clothing rapidly chills your body temperature and remove outer layers or open your coat briefly if you are sweating. Keep moving to stay warm. Above all, watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia. Signs or symptoms of frostbite are inflammation of skin in patches and a burning or prickling that results in blistering. Hypothermia is characterized by a sensation of cold, shivering, numbness and lethargy. People with hypothermia experience a decrease in the pulse and respirations.

Winter driving tips

Winter driving can sometimes be a challenging task, especially when road and weather conditions are not favourable. Follow these tips to help keep you safe during the winter months.frezzing thermometer

Winter tires are a good option as they will provide greater traction under snowy or icy conditions. Keep a snow brush or scraper in your car, along with possible emergency items such as a lightweight shovel, battery jumper cables and a flashlight. Make sure that mirrors, all windows and the top of your vehicle are free of snow or frost before getting onto the road. After starting your vehicle, wait for the fog to clear from the interior of the windows so you will have good visibility all around.

Drive according to highway and weather conditions, and stay alert and in control of your vehicle. Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to avoid situations where you may have to brake suddenly on a slippery surface.

For more information, visit the Government of Canada’s Get Prepared website, or York’s Office of Emergency Preparedness website.