Winter weather preparedness

Winter weather preparedness

Ladies and gentlemen, do not get fooled by the relatively mild fall we’ve had! Winter is fast approaching and everyone needs to be prepared for snow, ice and cold. The following information comes from the National Weather Service.

One hundred eighty-two people have died from exposure to cold temperatures in the state of Illinois since 1996. This is much more than severe thunderstorms and tornadoes (64 deaths), floods (48 deaths) and lightning (19 deaths) combined during the same period.

The coldest temperature on record in the state occurred on January 5, 1999, when the mercury dipped to 36 below zero near Congerville in Woodford County!

Hypothermia sets in when your body’s temperature drops below 95 degrees. Because hypothermia is based on your body’s temperature and not the air temperature, it is possible to get hypothermia even when the air temperature is in the mid-60s. For those that may be more susceptible to cold, keep your home at 68 degrees or warmer.

Illinois normally experiences five severe winter storms each year. As few as two (in the winters of 1921-1922 and 1980-1981), and as many as 18 winter storms (in the winters of 1977-1978 and 1981-1982) have occurred. There has not been a winter in Illinois without a winter storm in the past century. When driving in the first winter’s snow, take time to remember how to drive in snow – it takes longer to stop and you can’t drive as fast! All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles will provide more traction in snow, but even these vehicles cannot slow down any faster.

Snow, ice storms and freezing rain are deadly for drivers. In Illinois, snow- and ice-covered roads result in an average of 27,900 vehicle crashes each year. The accidents also produce an average of 4,338 injuries and 49 fatalities annually. Central Illinois experiences more freezing rain and ice storms than any other part of the state, on average.

In central Illinois, average snowfall is 20 to 25 inches. The average liquid water to snow ratio in central Illinois is 13:1 (This means, on average, there are 13.0” of snow for every 1.00” of liquid / melted snow).

Winter flooding is particularly dangerous. Evacuating into cold waters can rapidly result in hypothermia.

Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock an adult off their feet. Twelve inches of water can float a small car. Eighteen to 24 inches of water will carry off most large vehicles. More than 50 percent of flooding fatalities occur in vehicles.

Before travelling or going outside, be sure to check the weather. Travel with an emergency supply kit, including blankets, flashlight, water and some type of non-perishable food. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. These are necessities even if staying at home when a winter storm is expected. Whether travelling or not, let others know where you’ll be during a winter storm.

For more information, visit the University of Illinois Extension Disaster Resources website at

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About the author

Duane is an Educator with University of Illinois Extension in the Calhoun/Cass/Greene/Morgan/Scott unit.

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