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Ready DC
Ready DC

Extreme Cold and Snowstorms

Winter storms may include high wind, freezing rain, heavy snowfall, and extreme cold. Severe winter storms can cause blocked roads, power outages, transportation accidents, and death. The National Weather Service provides important safety information and critical weather forecast information. It is important to understand the types of winter storm alerts

  • Winter Storm Watch: Significant and hazardous winter weather is possible within 48 hours.  
  • Winter Storm Warning: Significant combination of hazardous winter weather is occurring or imminent. 

 

Before

Use the following tips to prepare your home, family and pets before a winter/ice storm:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are. 
  • Build or re-stock your Emergency Kit to ensure you have enough supplies to last you at least three days. 
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family members may not all be in one place when disaster strikes.  It is important to know what you will do in case of an emergency. Plan how you will contact one another, where you will meet, and how to communicate if you lose power. 
  • Make an emergency plan for your pets. Bring pets inside.  
  • Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full. 
  • Charge your cell phone so you have a full battery. Consider buying a solar or battery powered phone charger. 
  • Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. 
  • Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects. 
  • If going outside, dress for the weather. Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing is better than wearing one layer of heavy clothing. V 
  • Keep water faucets open to a slow drip. Visit DC Water’s website to learn more about protecting your pipes from the cold. 
  • Remove any dead, broken, or rotting tree branches that could fall during a winter/ice storm. 
  • Shutter windows. Close all interior doors. Secure and brace external doors. 
  • Postpone outdoor activities. 
  • Call the Hypothermia Hotline at 1 (800) 535-7252 if you see a homeless person stranded in the cold. 

 

During

Use the following tips to protect your home, family and pets during a winter/ice storm:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are. 
  • For the latest information on how winter weather is impacting the District and city services, visit the District’s Snow Team website, snow.dc.gov. 
  • Stay indoors during the storm as much as possible. 
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways. 
  • If water lines or pipes freeze, remove insulation and pour warm water over them. Visit DC Water’s website to learn more about protecting your pipes from the cold. 
  • Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters. Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stove top or oven. 
  • Conserve heating fuel sources. 
  • Keep dry. Dress in layers. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. 
  • If evacuated, remember to bring your Emergency Kit. If you do not have one, include personal items to spend the night (toiletries, medicines, etc.). For a full list of items to include, visit ReadyDC’s emergency kit page.  
  • Watch for signs of frostbite: skin appearing white and waxy, numbness or no feeling in the area, and possible blisters. 
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia: shivering, numbness, confusion, dizziness, weakness, slurred speech, and shock. Go to a medical facility if you or someone you see is experiencing hypothermia. 
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive, consider the following: 
    • Keep your gas tank as full as possible during cold weather.
    • Travel during the day and keep others informed of your schedule.
    • Stay on main roads; avoid side roads and alleys.
    • Do not park your car on a Snow Emergency Route if a snow emergency is declared. Vehicles parked on these streets may be subject to fines and/or towing.

If you are stranded, you must decide whether to stay or go.

Stay:

  • If you are stuck on the road to avoid exposure
  • If you know for certain that rescue is likely
  • If a safe location is neither nearby or visible
  • If you do not have appropriate clothing be outside
  • If you do not have the ability to call for help

Go:

  • If a safe location is neither nearby or visible
  • If outside conditions are safe and visible
  • If you have appropriate clothing

 

After

Use the following tips to help your home, family and pets recover safely after a winter/ice storm:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • For the latest information on how winter weather is impacting the District and city services, visit the District’s Snow Team website: snow.dc.gov
  • Stay indoors if possible. 
  • Check on your neighbors. Help people who may need special help, such as babies, children, the elderly, or people with disabilities or access and functional needs. 
  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them as soon as possible. 
  • Clear snow and ice from sidewalks and steps next to your home and/or business. District laws mandates residents to remove snow from sidewalks and steps within eight hours of daylight after the snow stops. 
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death during the winter. 
  • Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing several layers of warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. 
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, flooding surrounds the building, or if fire damage your home. 
  • Check your home for damage and photograph all damage to include in insurance claims. Contact your insurance agent to file a claim. 
  • Make sure you hire licensed and trained contractors for home repairs. 
  • If you cannot return home, District authorities will provide information on how to find the nearest available shelter. Call 311, sign up for alerts from AlertDC, and access information on the HSEMA App.  
  • Ensure you have a battery or solar-powered radio as a backup for receiving alerts. 

Additional Resources