Winter weather preparedness

By Ken Johnson

This year, Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Illinois is November 11 to 17, and Mother Nature has cooperated by providing us with snow! With Illinois averaging five severe winter storms every year, it’s a good idea to be prepared.

Just like thunderstorms, there can be watches and warnings for winter weather. A winter storm watch means severe winter weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible within the next day or two, meaning it’s time to prepare. A winter storm warning means severe winter weather conditions are occurring, imminent, or highly likely and therefore you should stay indoors and adjust any travel plans you may have.

How can you prepare for winter weather? First, winterize your home. Make sure walls and attics are insulated, caulk and weatherize doors and windows, and install storm windows or cover your windows with plastic. Taking these steps can help conserve energy and heat.

As you winterize your home, make sure your pipes are also winterized. Frozen, ruptured pipes can cause a lot of damage. An eighth-of-an-inch crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water a day! Typically pipes that are in outer walls, in crawl spaces, or in the attic are the most prone to freezing. These pipes should be insulated or wrapped with heat tape (make sure its UL approved). Disconnect garden hoses and shut-off and drain water from any pipes leading to outside faucets. When it gets cold out, let hot and cold water trickle at night from faucets that are on an outside wall. It’s also a good idea to leave cabinet doors open (to get more heat to the pipes under the sink) and make sure not to set your thermostat below 55 degrees.

Now is also a good time to create an emergency supply kit for both your home and vehicle. For your kit at home, include items such as a battery-powered NOAA radio, food that does not require cooking or refrigeration (canned fruits, vegetables, meats; peanut butter; etc.), extra medications, extra water, flashlights and extra batteries, and a first-aid kit. If you have pets make sure you have the necessary supplies for them as well. Make sure you have special items that people in your household may need as well (infants, the elderly, etc.)

An emergency supply kit for a vehicle is important for all trips, even if it’s only a few miles. If your vehicle breaks down or you’re in an accident it could take longer than normal for help to arrive. Some items to include in your kit include a cell phone and charger, blankets, extra clothing, jumper cables, a flashlight and extra batteries, non-perishable food (high calorie), and matches or a lighter. Also, when you are traveling during the winter, especially during inclement weather, make sure to tell someone about your travel plans (where you’re going, the route you’re taking, and when you plant to arrive).

Finally, be prepared for the outdoors. Dress in layers; the air trapped between the layers insulates you and they can be removed if you get too hot. Make sure you wear some sort of head covering as a significant amount of body heat is lost through the top of your head. Your hands should also be protected – mittens offer better protection than gloves. Additionally, keep your feet as dry as possible.

To get more tips on getting yourself ready for winter check out the National Weather Service Office in Lincoln’s website on winter preparedness at: as well as U of I Extension’s Disaster Preparedness website at:

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