Yellowstone County, Montana
Disaster & Emergency Services
Preparation Tips: Winter Storms Contact Department

Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region. Even areas that normally experience mild winters can be hit with a major snowstorm or extreme cold. The impacts include closed highways, blocked roads, downed power lines, flooding and hypothermia.


What To Do Before a Winter Storm Threatens

  • Prepare to survive on your own for at least 3 days. Maintain several days' supply of medicines, water, and food that needs no cooking or refrigeration.
  • Have emergency heating equipment and fuel (a gas fireplace, wood burning stove, fireplace, or kerosene heater) so you can keep at least one room of your residence livable. (Be sure the room is well ventilated if using kerosene heaters.) If a thermostat controls your furnace and your electricity is cut off by a storm, you will need emergency heat.
  • Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply. (Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, insulate walls and attics.)


What To Do During a Winter Storm


  • Listen to the radio or television for weather reports and emergency information.
  • Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Dress for the season. Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves, wear a hat; most body heat is lost through the top of the head. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Be careful when shoveling snow. Over-exertion can bring on a heart attack - a major cause of death in the winter.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia; uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove any wet clothing, warm the center of the body first, and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.


Winter Driving


  • If you must travel by car during a winter storm, travel in the day, don't travel alone, and keep others informed of your schedule. Stay on main roads; avoid back-road shortcuts.
  • Winterize your car. This includes a battery check, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, oil level, and tires. Consider snow tires, snow tire studs, or chains. Keep your car's gas tank full.
  • Carry a "winter car kit" in the trunk of your car. The kit should include: Shovel, Windshield scraper, Battery-powered radio, Flashlight, Extra Batteries, Water, Snack food, Mittens, Hat, Blanket, Tow chain or rope, Tire chains, Bag of road salt and sand, Fluorescent distress flag, Booster cables, Road maps, Emergency flares, Cellular telephone or a two-way radio, if available.
  • If a blizzard traps you in your car: Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Run the engine and heater about ten minutes each hour to keep warm. When engine is running, open a window slightly for ventilation. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.



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