Winter Storm Safety Tips

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winter storms

What are Winter Storms?

The National Weather Service uses the terms below to convey the weather threat to the public. It's important to understand the difference between these warnings so you know what to do to stay safe.

Winter Storm Watch - Indicates severe winter weather, such as heavy snow or ice, is possible within the next day or two.

Winter Storm Warning - Indicates heavy snow, heavy sleet, or a combination of winter weather hazards are highly likely or occurring. 6” of snow or more in a 12-hour period (or 8” of snow or more in a 24-hour period) are expected within next 12 to 36 hours. Stay indoors and adjust travel plans.

Ice Storm Warning - Heavy accumulations of ice (½ inch or more of freezing rain) will create extremely dangerous travel conditions, damage trees and likely cause extended power outages. Do not attempt to drive.

Blizzard Warning - Strong winds of 35 mph or greater will produce blinding snow and near-zero visibility, resulting in potentially life-threatening conditions, especially for travelers. Blizzard conditions can occur even with minimal accumulations of snow.

Winter Weather Advisory - Indicates snow accumulation of 2 to 5 inches, or a combination of winter weather conditions which may cause significant inconveniences or be hazardous, especially to travelers.

Freezing Rain Advisory - Light accumulations of ice will cause hazardous travel.

Wind Chill Advisory - Dangerous wind chills of -15 degrees to -24 degrees.

Why prepare?

Winter weather hazards in New England vary considerably from year to year, and sometimes even within a winter season. Sometimes it's the warmest and least snowy on record, only to be followed by an extremely cold and snowy winter months the following year.

Regardless of what each winter may have in store for us, we can be certain that snow, ice and cold temperatures will have impacts on Natick at times. Use this page to help you and your families stay safe in extreme winter weather.

Winterizing Your Home

Winterize your home to extend your fuel supply. Insulate walls and attics. Caulk and weatherize doors and windows. Install storm windows, or cover windows with plastic wrap.

Take steps to prevent frozen water pipes. Locate and insulate the pipes most susceptible to freezing; typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces, in garages, or in attics. Heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables can be used to wrap pipes. Be sure to use products approved by an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., and only for the use intended (exterior or interior). Closely follow all manufacturers' installation and operation instructions. Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.

Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. Make sure you know how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst.

Winterizing Your Vehicle

Prepare your vehicle for winter weather. Have your vehicle serviced by a reputable dealer, garage or mechanic. Check your wipers, tires, lights and fluid levels regularly. Make sure the brakes and transmission are working properly. Lubricate door and trunk locks to prevent them from freezing.

Prepare a Winter Storm Survival Kit and carry it in your vehicle. A kit is important even for short trips. If you have an accident or vehicle breakdown, you may be waiting several hours for assistance to arrive.

When Snowed In

Prepare for possible isolation in your home for several days. Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel. After a severe winter storm, regular fuel carriers may not reach you for days. Have emergency heating equipment (fireplaces, wood burning stoves or space heaters) and ample fuel so you can keep at least one room of your house warm.

Always ensure proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. NEVER use an outdoor grill to heat your home or to cook food indoors. Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure your family knows how to use them.

Receive Alerts

Receiving advance warnings for severe weather, timely emergency alerts, and information during a disaster is critical to staying safe during an emergency. Every family should have multiple methods for receiving emergency alerts, including at least one with an audible alert to wake you in the middle of the night. In addition to the systems listed on our "Sign Up For Alerts" page, these local tools may be of use in an extreme weather emergency.

The free Massachusetts Alerts app provides emergency notifications and public safety information based on your location, proximity to an event or incident, and the preferences you select.

One can register to receive Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Alerts to your phone and/or email address by downloading the MBTA mobile app.

During times of emergency, the 24/7 2-1-1 hotline is the Commonwealth’s primary telephone information call center. Call 2-1-1 to get answers to questions about the location of open shelters, information about transportation or other restrictions due to a declared state of emergency, post disaster assistance, reporting a damaged property, ways to volunteer or donate, or other services you or your family may need.

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