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Can You Weather A Winter Storm?

Updated on November 8, 2016

What A Winter Storm Is And How You Can Prepare

Combining high winds, heavy snow and freezing rain Winter Storms are among natures most impressive. From downing power lines to creating impossible driving conditions these storms remind us of how powerful mother nature truly is..

Sometimes Winter Storms can hit without much notice, it's a good idea to always be prepared for the worst blizzard possible. After all, getting caught out in the elements can sometimes prove deadly.

Here we hope to help you better understand winter weather and what you and your family can do to make sure you're prepared for it.

Blizzards are severe winter storms. They produce heavy amounts of snow or blowing snow, high winds and cold temperatures. Blizzards are formed when a high pressure system collides with a low pressure system. A blizzard can form any place snow falls but is most common in the Northeastern United States and some parts of Canada.

In extreme cases a blizzard may cause whiteout conditions which result when the wind and the snow become so severe it's impossible to tell the ground from the air. If caught in a whiteout people may lose their sense of direction putting them in even more danger of the elements.

The United States National Weather Service defines a blizzard as, and will issue a warning when conditions are expected to be as follows:

Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or greater, considerable falling and/or blowing snow reducing visibility frequently to 1/4 mile or less for a period of three hours or more. There are no temperature criteria in the definition of a blizzard but freezing temperatures and 35 mph winds will create sub-zero wind chills

Famous U.S. Blizzards - Great Lakes Blizzard of 1977

A very informative slide show of the Blizzard of 1977 which paralyzed most of the Great Lakes Region especially Buffalo, New York.

Warm Winter Storm Hats - They'll Keep You Snug In A Winter Storm

The Blizzard Of 1978-Recalling A Whirl Of White

A Seven Year Old's View...30 Years Later.

I was 7 and living in Michigan (about 8 miles away from where I live now). I don't have a clear recollection, just bits, pieces and a few small snippets. So this is less of a story and more of a collection of small memories.

I remember the wind and the continuous swirling snow the most. I watched it for hours out the front window..although the scene hardly changed. It was difficult to see the neighbors house across the street in the small sub-division where we lived. But I had to wait, wait for my dad to get home. He was a police officer in our small town, so of course he was out there in it. I don't recall that I knew I was worried about him then. Now that I'm older I realise I was, but he made it home safe.

I was scheduled to have my tonsils out the next day. It had to be rescheduled. I thought this was pretty lucky on my part. We also had no school, another bit of luck in such a terrible storm. My brother and I rejoiced and desperately tried to tune in any channel we could on the Tv.

After The Storm

View from our front window after clean-up had begun.

I remember when the storm started winding down. The two boys across the street (both around 18) decided to take their truck and try to make it to the nearest store. They went up and down the block asking people if there was anything they needed in the event they actually made it..and on the off chance the store was opened for business. When they came to our house (of course we were already prepared) my mom asked if they could get her a jar of pickles. I found this very odd (and still do) that she would ask for a such a thing. I wish I had asked her then "why pickles?".....I've asked her since but she doesn't recall the "pickle" incident (as it's now known). But my dad remembers her asking, so I know I'm not crazy. I personally think she's wiped it from her mind from sheer embarrasment. I don't remember if we ever got those pickles.

After the snow stopped the whole neighborhood bundled up and went outside. Moms and dads shoveled sidewalks and driveways and hoped that the snow plow would come down our street soon. Us kids played in a man-sized winter wonderland..having snowball fights and making huge snow tunnels out of the massive piles of snow.

The alarm clock goes off, you look outside and sure enough there's 6 inches of fresh snow. Obviously, you need to get to work, even though you'd rather jump back into bed and pull the covers over your head. You need to make the trip as safe as possible for both you and other drivers.

First, check to make sure you have all of your emergency items (see tips below on what to keep in your car) in your vehicle.

Remove snow and ice from your car.

Turn your car lights on so you are easily visible to other motorists.

Go slow, allow plenty of time for stopping and put plenty of space between you and other vehicles.

Avoid skidding by gently pushing on the brakes.

If you're lucky enough to get behind a snow plow/salt truck don't pass them. The road ahead of them is probably even more treacherous.

Here are some great links to find out even more about driving on the snow and ice:

Driving A Car In Snow Video

How To Drive In The Snow

An Ice Storm occurs when rain falls onto an extremely cold ground. The rain water quickly forms into a smooth sheet of Ice covering everything in sight. Power lines and trees snap due to the large amount of weight from the ice, roads and side walks become hazardous making it nearly impossible for people to go about their daily lives.

Occuring mainly in December and January, Ice Storms often happen in the early morning hours which boast the coldest temps of the day.

Ice storms can form with little or no warning to the public, thus adding an extra element of danger. Add that to the treacherous roads, falling trees and power lines and you have a very real recipe for disaster.

Ice Storms are defined by the National Weather Service as "Accumulations of 1/4 inch or more of freezing rain."

An apple, still on the tree, encased in ice after a storm.

Video Of Ice Storm Chaos In Portland - Ice Storms can cause very hazardous road conditions

Vehicles slide around like matchbox cars during a Portland, Oregon ice storm.

Winter Storm Poll - Have You Ever Been In A Winter Storm

How Many Major Winter Events Have You Seen?

See results

Lake Effect Snow

What Is Lake Effect Snow?

Lake effect snow is a weather phenomenon that occurs when arctic air sweeps across The Great Lakes of North America. This happens early in winter when the waters of the lakes are still fairly warm. The winds pick up water vapors, which then freeze and are deposited in and around coastal areas.

Lake effect snow occurs mainly in the Great Lakes region but can form over any large lake. Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland are most effected.

Forming in bands, snow will sometimes fall heavily in concentrated areas while other areas, just a few miles away, may see no snow at all. Lake effect snow can also cause "thunder snow" or snow accompanied by thunder and lightning.

In some areas, several inches of snow may fall in as little as one hour with a large overall snowfall total. Strong winds may occur causing near whiteout conditions.

"Lake Effect Snow Warning - Lake effect snowfall of 6 inches or more in 12 hours or less, or 8 inches or more in 24 hours or less." -National Weather Service

Still photo of lake effect snow.

Animated photo of lafe effect snow over Lake Huron.

Video Of A Lake Effect Winter Storm - A Lake Effect Snow Storm

More Winter Weather

Winter Storm And Weather Definitions

Here are more winter weather definitions from the National Weather Service:

Winter Weather Warning : Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.

Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.

Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists.

Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.

What To Keep In Your Car

In Case You Get Caught Off Guard In A Winter Storm

Remember, you should avoid driving when road conditions are bad and if there is a Winter Storm Warning. If you don't really need to go out, don't!

In the event you are caught out on the roads during a winter storm there are a few things you can keep in your vehicle to help out if you get stranded.


First Aid Kit

A can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for water)

Windshield Scraper

Jumper Cables

Cell Phone


Tool Kit

Paper Towels

Bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow for added traction)

Tow Rope


Container of water and high-calorie canned or dried foods and a can opener


Brightly colored cloth

Hopefully everyone can ride out the winter storm in the comfort of their own home. However, things happen that can make being at home dangerous as well. Your power could go out.. including the furnace. You could be unable to leave your home for several days. There could be structure damage to your home caused by high winds or falling trees...

There are a few things you can keep at home to help you weather the storm.

An alternate way to heat your home during a power failure: dry firewood for a fireplace or wood stove, or kerosene for a Kerosene Heater.

Also keep the following stocked in case needed:

Furnace fuel (coal, propane, or oil)

Extra Blankets


Multipurpose, dry-chemical Fire Extinguisher

First Aid Kit

Flash Light

Battery-powered clock or watch

Extra batteries

Non electric can opener

Snow Shovel

Rock salt

Special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications, etc.)

Bottled Water

Food that needs no cooking or refrigeration, such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods, and dried fruits. Remember baby food and formula if you have young children.

Water stored in clean containers, or purchased bottled water (5 gallons per person) in case your water pipes freeze and rupture.

Medicines that any family member may need.

Books About Snow Storms - Read More About Winter Storms In One Of These Great Books

Excellent Snow Storm Activities - Things To Do If You're Snowed In

If you're stuck at home, warm and cozy, here are some great ideas to pass the time.

Winter Storm Guestbook - Comment On Winter Storms

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    • lesliesinclair profile image


      7 years ago

      one of my fondest memories of our old home was when ice covered every needle on every evergreen tree

    • Ashly Rain profile image

      Ashly Rain 

      7 years ago

      Great lens! There's almost no place left to put the snow around my driveway right now (Massachusetts). I'm sure there are thousands and thousands of people who can say the same thing this winter, across the U.S.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great page, I'm ready for Spring around here:-) Lensrolling to my northeast storms lens.

    • JeremiahStanghini profile image


      7 years ago

      A very relevant lens for what most of the Midwest is about to wake up to!

      With Love and Gratitude,


    • sheriangell profile image


      7 years ago

      I grew up in Michigan and remember the storms well. Don't miss them at all. Now I live in NC where if it snows an inch, everything shuts down til the snow is gone. That photo of your house in the Storm of 78 could easily have been the neighborhood I grew up in! Thanks for the memories!

    • retro-gamer profile image


      7 years ago from Michigan

      In Michigan we are used to these winter storms. Very nice lens and informative.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Don't forget about frozen pipes. They are the #1 cause of winter damage to your home. I wrote a detailed lens on it and found a wonderful protect that could help everyone avoid water damage from their frozen pipes:

      Freeze Alarms

    • Nightowl John profile image

      Nightowl John 

      7 years ago

      This is a very well done lens full of useful information and resources. We don't have too many winter storms here and when they come it's usually flooding and mud slides that we have to deal with. Nice work. Squid Angel blessed.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I love winter storms if I don't have to leave my house...otherwise..not so much:) Very useful information...blessed and added to my December Blessings lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      OMG, can we get serious about this question. I will tell you unequivacobly NO, not any more! You know; been there and definitely done that winter storm!

    • thehiplady lm profile image

      thehiplady lm 

      7 years ago

      Great pictures and tips for driving. Thanks

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Brrr. I grew up in the Great Lakes Region (western NY) and remember 'blizzards' and 'Lake Effect' snow storms very well, and a few 'blizzards' in the Midwest later on. In 1993 we moved from Missouri to the South to retire where it DIDN'T snow! Now, some 17 years later I have moved back to Missouri to be near family and this will be my first 'winter' in a long, long time. I am NOT looking forward to my first winter back - the cold, AND the snow will no doubt make me 'hibernate' much of the time, but I haven't forgotten my years in 'snow country', so will eventually become acclimated! :) Excellent story of winter storms, especially the Great Lakes variety!

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      7 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Very timely and important information to help people be prepared and stay safe in the event of a winter storm. Amazing photos and videos from the Blizzard of "78. The personal recollections and photos were especially interesting. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • mom-247 profile image


      7 years ago

      As someone who lives in Australia all of our storms are of the summer storm variety, although they can be pretty scary too. Very interesting to read about other parts of the world

    • littlelu lm profile imageAUTHOR

      littlelu lm 

      7 years ago

      @purplelady: Lol! Thanks sooo much purplelady! I actually love the snow , but could do without driving in it.

    • purplelady profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a really well done lens. But I am sorry to tell you that it makes my point for putting it on my Snow and I Got Divorced lens as a featured lens. I lived in Nebraska for most of my life and only moved to CA nine years ago. The move was to never have to shovel, drive in or try to stay warm in really cold months.

    • ICanCook profile image


      7 years ago

      I live in New England because I love winter. I know the storms do a lot of damage and many people die but it brings an exciting feeling of something that doesn't happen all the time.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      7 years ago from Vermont

      I've lived most of my life in New England (MA, NH, VT) where at least one sock-it-to-me snowstorm hits every year. The blizzard of '78 was a doozie, but NH had the roads clear in 48 hours. Your tips for preparation and storm survival are right on target. Let's hope for no blizzards in this winter season.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love snow and winter storms (aside from the driving dangers). The beauty of freshly fallen snow is amazing!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've had a few scary experiences driving in snow storms and it ain't fun. I would definitely recommend switching to winter tires if one drives a lot in winter conditions. They make a huge difference, but driving is indeed very different in winter than it is in summer. Great tips! :)

    • Twmarsh profile image


      7 years ago

      When I was younger and dumber, I used to think driving in heavy snow was fun. I sure don't think that anymore. Nice tips here!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This year US has witnessed the most terrible snowstorms of the season and causing some of the major snow storm tragedies ever for the country , i feel like the world is really facing this years snow very adversely then the previous years perhaps due to the Global Warming.

    • DesignedbyLisa LM profile image

      DesignedbyLisa LM 

      9 years ago

      Hi! Great Lens! You are invited to join the The Winter and Snow Group! Your lens would be a perfect fit...

    • DesignedbyLisa LM profile image

      DesignedbyLisa LM 

      9 years ago

      Hi! Great Lens! You are invited to join the The Winter and Snow Group! Your lens would be a perfect fit...

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      There is a new group being formed in Squidooville. It’s called A Walk in the Woods. Because you have done such a nice job with your lens Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is inviting you to join him in this new venture. The exposure that your lens gets by joining will boost your lens rank and add to the number of web pages linking to your lens. Come take A Walk in the Woods.

      After you have dug out of the snow come for A Walk in the Woods with us.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      What a great lens!

      White Foot the Wood Mouse scurried over for a visit and left you some virtual maple syrup made by Garner Rix to pour on your waffles and pancakes.

    • Karendelac profile image


      10 years ago

      What an incredibly useful lens.

      Bookmarked for reference and further study.I feel so sorry fir the Birds (I am into Bird rescue) when they have to be outside in freesing temperatures night after night.

      I encourage one and all to feed wild birds in the winter. If you leave food out daily, they will come !

      Good Job and thanks for visiting with me as well !

      Warm wishes,


    • ChristopherScot1 profile image


      10 years ago

      This lens looks very cold!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hey, I love this lens. Growing up in Southwest Michigan, I can definitely relate to this lens. I happen to love a good snowstorm. The last real good one we had around here was the one that started New Years Eve 1998 and went on into the new year - 1999. Roads were not plowed for a few days :)

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 

      10 years ago

      Good job, littlelu! Very useful information. Five stars.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I have enjoyed reading your lens. Thank you. 5 stars

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Excellent work littlelu, great depth of content! gave ya fivers yesterday! carrie

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I love it! I live in ND, and we see our share of crazy winter weather. ***** for such a thorough effort and lens! :)


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