Winter Watches and Warnings

Confused about the difference between winter storm watches and warnings? Both terms describe identical weather conditions: at least 6 inches of snow, with visibility less than a quarter mile, and winds gusting at up to 35 miles per hour or more. The difference lies in the timing. A winter storm watch means the trouble could arrive in the next 12 to 36 hours. When a winter storm warning goes out, it means you can expect rough going sometime within the next 12 hours.

The secret to a safe and sane winter is to be prepared. If you wait for your local weather forecasters to announce a winter storm warning — or even a watch — and then join the panicked crowds at the supermarket, you may not be able to get all the supplies you need. At best, you’ll send your stress and anxiety levels sailing off the charts. So do yourself and your family a favor: If you live in an area that gets even occasional snow and ice storms, gear up long before the season’s first flakes begin to fall. Here’s what you need:

  • Basic cleaning and first-aid supplies
  • Battery-powered radio and/or television
  • Candles and matches
  • Emergency heating source
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Food, water, and medications—both prescription and OTC—for all people
    and pets in your household (FEMA recommends you have a two-week supply.)
  • Heating fuel, such as oil for your furnace and extra wood for your
    fireplace or woodstove
  • Home-entertainment options that don’t require electric power, such as
    books, board games, playing cards, and jigsaw puzzles