This late push of extended cold and snow brings memories of the horrible winter of 2013 and 2014 for people living east of the Rockies. This pattern of below average temperatures and increased snow and ice storms, even in the south, continues into the first week of March. The National Weather Service is forecasting below average temperatures for much of the eastern United States.
This first map of North America shows the likelihood of temperature departure by percentage. The dark blue and purple over the eastern United States is a high confidence forecast in below average temperatures. Alaska and the west coast are in a high confidence area of above average temperatures.
This second image is for a longer time period – late February through March 4th. Note that the shaded areas have little change in coverage. The percentage or hue of the shading has changed to denote a lower confidence in the forecast based on a longer time period that projects further into the future. This is very normal with forecasting. The principle is: the further out a forecast, the lower the confidence. That is why 80 to 90 percent confidence in the first image drops to 50 to 60 percent confidence.
So, what does this mean? It means a continuation of very cold temperatures through early March for the eastern United States. This is a pattern that began in late January and could end up lasting almost two months. So, now is an appropriate time to go over some cold and winter weather safety. Why, you ask? Because mistakes or accidents are most likely when we are tired and weary. And right now, I think most of us are tired and weary of winter.
Let me begin with personal safety and common sense reminders. From Florida to Maine and west to Wisconsin and Texas, people are exposed to uncommonly cold temperatures right now. If you go out unprepared, you could find yourself in need of help. Simply, when you go outside, dress for the weather. Wear layers, warm hats, gloves. Minimize the amount of time you spend outside. If you must remain outdoors, take breaks to go indoors and warm up. Here are some pointers:
- Dress in layers
- Wear appropriate clothing – warm and bulky is better than frostbite
- Limit your time outdoors
- Wear good warm boots and gloves
- Stay dry. If you get wet, get indoors immediately and dry off
- If you are shaking uncontrollably or your skin is getting numb, frostbite or hypothermia is settling in. Get indoors
- Don’t subject your pets to cold conditions too long
We are also at the point of winter where supplies may be getting low. This is really important around the home. Recent power outages have been widespread in the south with ice storms. Here is a good winter supply list for the home:
- Batteries – always a necessity. Stock up
- Is your fireplace in good working order and do you have a healthy supply of wood?
- Salt or melting agent. You can go through 50 pounds in one or two storms. Resupply
- Emergency Kit
Also, is your snow blower running well? Can neighbors or family help with snow removal? If you have more than six inches of snow on your roof, use a snow rake to remove most of the snow. DO NOT CLIMB onto your roof to remove snow. Snow rakes are less than $40 and allow you to safely remove snow from the ground. Also, if snow is deep around house, clear it away from your heating exhaust. This allows carbon monoxide from your heater to continue away from your house.
Finally, your vehicle. How does it drive in the snow? Do you need new tires? Try to always have at least a half a tank of gas. A normal 20 minute drive can take over an hour in snow. You don’t want to run out of gas on the interstate. Of course, the best option is to not drive in snow. But, if you do, here are some tips to help get to your destination safely:
- Have your car serviced. Have a technician check the spark plugs, oil, fluid levels, tires, heater, battery and wipers
- Take a small shovel
- Windshield scraper
- A fully charged cell phone
- jumper cables
- flashlight with batteries
- Small tool kit
- Road flares
This is a good start to help make the next few cold weeks a little less worrisome. Hang in there. Spring is coming. The calendar is never wrong. In two months, we can all share stories about the horrible winter of 2014/2015; hopefully, under sunny and 75 degree weather.