Winter Weather Preparedness

Helpful Links
Generator Use and Safety Tips | Staying Safe While Heating Your Home | Homeless Services Center & Shelters

Weather Terms

  • Freezing Rain: Creates a coating of ice on roads and walkways.
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground, causing roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: Cold, ice and snow are expected.
  • Winter Storm Watch: Severe weather, such as heavy snow or ice, is possible in the next day or two.
  • Winter Storm Warning: Severe winter conditions have begun or will begin very soon.
  • Blizzard Warning: Heavy snow and strong winds will produce a blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning: Below-freezing temperatures are expected.

On the Road  

It’s always best to stay off roads during winter storms.  Most traffic crashes happen within the first two hours after a storm starts.

  • Get road conditions by calling 511 or visiting, and monitor local media.
  • Keep your tank full of gas.
  • Is your vehicle ready for winter? Check VDOT’s website for tips.
  • Clear snow and ice from your vehicle’s roof, hood, trunk and especially from the windows, mirrors and lights.
  • Don’t pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles.
  • Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road.
  • Park off the street if possible, or arrange with neighbors to park on a designated side of the street to facilitate plowing.

At Home

  • If you heat with a fireplace or wood stove. Have a professional check it, especially if it’s been a long time since the last cleaning.  Residue can build up and cause fires.
  • Safe use of space heaters. Never plug them into extension cords; plug into wall outlets. Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from other objects, and turn off before going to bed.
  • Stay informed during power outages. Be sure you have a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio (and extra batteries). Get one with the NOAA Weather Radio band so you can hear winter weather reports directly from the National Weather Service as well as local radio stations. These are available at electronics, discount and sporting goods stores, and online from many retail outlets. Models are available for those with special needs.
  • Don’t use candles during power outages. Many home fires in winter are caused by candles. Flashlights are much safer. Have plenty of extra batteries.
  • Family emergency plan. If your family cannot return home because of severe weather or closed roads, you need to decide now on where you will meet to reunite.  You also need an out-of-town relative or friend to be your family emergency contact. Learn more about making a plan for winter weather and all emergencies – and get a free family emergency plan worksheet.
  • Water Main Breaks  Most common as temperatures fluctuate.  Learn more about water main breaks.

Winter Preparedness Video