Winter Storm

Understand a Winter Storm:

Winter storms can bring snow, sleet, and freezing rain across the entire United States and its territories. Even Hawaii gets snow in its Big Island, and major cities as far south as Atlanta and Dallas have been paralyzed by snow and ice. Blizzards occur when strong wind causes blowing snow and whiteout conditions, making roads impassable. Thousands of people are injured or killed every year in traffic accidents related to slippery roads from winter storms.

This website is designed to teach you how to stay safe before, during, and after a winter storm. You will find information on winter alerts, science and hazards, snow coverage maps, and information describing the different types of winter storms. 

Winter Watch(s) vs. Warning(s):

Winter Storm Watch vs Warning Map Example

Winter Watch(s): Be Prepared! (House 2)

  • Winter Storm Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for a significant winter storm event (heavy sleet, heavy snow, ice storm, heavy snow and blowing snow, or a combination of events.)
  • Wind Chill Watches are issued when there is the potential for a combination of extremely cold air and strong winds to create dangerously low wind chill values.
Winter Storm Watch vs Warning Map Example

Winter Warning(s): Take Action! (House 1)

  • Winter Storm Warnings are issued for a significant winter weather event including snow, ice, sleet or blowing snow or a combination of these hazards.  Travel will become difficult or impossible in some situations. Delay your travel plans until conditions improve.
  • Blizzard Warnings are issued for frequent gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile for three hours or more. A Blizzard Warning means severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring. Falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely, leading to whiteout conditions making travel extremely difficult. Do not travel. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle and wait for help to arrive.
  • Ice Storm Warnings are usually issued for ice accumulation of around 1/4 inch or more. This amount of ice accumulation will make travel dangerous or impossible and likely lead to snapped power lines and falling tree branches. Travel is strongly discouraged.
  • Wind Chill Warnings are issued for a combination of very cold air and strong winds that will create dangerously low wind chill values. This level of wind chill will result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken. Avoid going outdoors and wear warm protective clothing if you must venture outside.
Winter Storm Watch vs Warning Map Example

Winter Advisory (s): Take Action! (House 3)

  • Winter Weather Advisories are issued when snow, blowing snow, ice, sleet, or a combination of these wintry elements is expected but conditions should not be hazardous enough to meet warning criteria.  Be prepared for winter driving conditions and possible travel difficulties. Use caution when driving.
  • Wind Chill Advisories are issued when low wind chill temperatures are expected but will not reach local warning criteria. Extremely cold air and strong winds will combine to generate low wind chill readings. If you must venture outdoors, take precautions against frostbite and hypothermia.

Actions for Winter Weather:

Before a Winter Storm: 

Find out what you can do before a Winter Storm strikes. Preparation is key to staying safe and minimizing impacts.

  • Be Weather-Ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you're at risk for Winter Weather. Listen to local news or check the Norman National Weather Service webpage to stay informed about Winter watches and warnings.
  • Sign up for WichitaFalls CodeRED: The number one way to receive an emergency alert from Wichita Falls OEM and NWS is through a CodeRED message. Visit Emergency Alerts for more information on how to sign up and keep your information up to date. 
  • Build or Re-Stock Your Kit: Have critical items to help you survive before help arrives. During large-scale disasters, help could be delayed. Also develop a car emergency kit that has food, water, blankets, and flashlights.
  • Create a Communications Plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. 
  • Know your Risks: Learn about carbon monoxide poisoning, hypothermia, and frostbite. 
  • Prepare Your Home: 
    • Identify places in the community where you can go to get warm such as libraries and shopping malls. 
    • Cover windows with drapes or shades. 
    • Weather-strip doors and windows. 
    • Add insulation to keep the cold out. 

During a Winter Storm: 

Remain aware and monitor local radio and television outlets. Avoid extended periods of outdoor activities at all costs and check on your neighbors.

  • Stay Informed: Listen to radio and television, including NOAA Weather Radio if possible, check the Internet and social media for information and updates.
  • Road Conditions: Stay off the roads if at all possible. Vist, for road conditions. If trapped in your car, stay inside and call 9-1-1. 
  • Clothing: Wear layers and cover your head and limit your time outside. 
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids and stay away from energy/caffeinated drinks.
  • Being neighborly: Check on family members, seniors, and neighbors.
  • Know the Risks: Watch for frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Pets: Bring in pets and make sure they have plenty of water and a warm place to stay. 

After a Winter Storm: 

When the snow and ice melt, it's tempting to relieve that cabin fever and hit the roads. But melting snow can cause floods, partially cleared roads may be icy or blocked, creeks and rivers often overflow from the rush of melting snow and ice. Heavy snow may have knocked down power lines and caused gas leaks, both of which can be deadly but are not obvious at first glance. Follow the tips below to stay safe and check the other links on this site for actions to take before, during, and after a winter storm.

  • Stay Informed: Stay tuned to your local news for updated information on road conditions. Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a winter storm. Authorities may ask you to boil water for a while after a winter storm. Utility companies often have apps to update you on getting service back. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms when areas are dealing with power outages. Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage. 
  • Avoid Flood Roads: Standing water hides many dangers including toxins and chemicals. There may be sharp objects under the water or the road could have collapsed.
  • Avoid Disaster Areas: Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence may hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
  • Heed Road Closed and Cautionary Signs: Road closure and other cautionary signs are put in place for your safety. Pay attention to them!
  • Contact Your Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you’re okay so they can help spread the word. Register with or search the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well listing.
  • Road Conditions: Black ice is patchy ice on roadways that cannot easily be seen. Even if roadways have been cleared of snow following a storm, any water left on the roadways may freeze, resulting in a clear sheet of ice, also known as black ice. It is most dangerous in the early morning due to below-freezing nighttime temperatures. Potholes are a common road hazard following winter precipitation and can be difficult to see and can cause serious damage to your vehicle. 
  • Assess the Damage: After you are sure the winter weather threat has ended, check your property for damages. When walking through storm damage, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Contact local authorities if you see power lines down. Stay out of damaged buildings. Be aware of insurance scammers if your property has been damaged.