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Will the weather outside be frightful?

Nov. 16, 2017

Winter weather threats graphic listing extreme cold, wind chill, heavy snow and ice.
Photo: Minnesota’s winter weather brings its share of challenges, but with careful preparation, you and your family can enjoy it safely.

Thanksgiving is just around the bend, bringing with it a season of twinkly lights, yummy food, and – here in Minnesota, anyway – winter weather, some of which can be hazardous. It’s important to know what to expect, but if you’re like most people, you find the National Weather Service’s watch, warning and advisory (WWA) system a tad confusing. What’s the difference between a winter storm watch and a blizzard warning, for example, and how does that change the way you would prepare?

After talking with everyone from your average person to social and behavioral scientists, the National Weather Service is making it easier to understand weather forecasts by boiling it down to the information you need most: what, where and when. They’ll follow up that essential knowledge with additional details and precautionary/preparedness actions so that you can quickly find the information you need to be safe in hazardous conditions.

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean Minnesotans’ lives stop, though. You and your family still have to go about your daily business – but with a little preparation and a few precautions, you can. For example, whether you’re walking to school or building a snow fort, it’s important to dress correctly. After the snowstorm is over, kids should dress in snowsuits or layers and make sure their heads (including ears, which can get frostbitten easily) and hands are covered. Dress them in waterproof boots, and avoid cotton—it soaks up water but doesn’t add much warmth. Adults should do the same, especially with layers you can peel off as you heat up from skiing or shoveling snow.

If you’re out playing in the snow with your kids, make sure they stay near you or another adult and stay away from the streets (snowplows and salt trucks can be especially dangerous, as they can’t slow down or turn quickly to avoid little ones). Bring them inside often for warm-up breaks to reduce the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

Families should also have a plan in place to deal with separation during winter weather events like getting stranded on the road in a blizzard or power outages at home. Packing a winter survival kit and putting it in your vehicle will ensure you stay safe until help arrives. At home, make sure you have plenty of supplies on hand in case your electricity or heat goes out or you’re unable to get to the store. Add a battery-powered radio to your kit—you’ll need to stay informed.

By using the National Weather Service’s new forecast information and taking a few steps to prepare, you and your family can safely enjoy the winter weather Minnesota brings this time of year.