Winter Dangers

How to stay safe during the winter

Brianna Mayhair, News Writer

It may be Spring semester, but Winter is still in full swing. North Dakota is known for its long winters with low temperatures and large quantities of snow, so what are some things people should know to survive the harsh weather?

Understanding common weather vocabulary is one-way individuals can prepare for the weather correctly. Some of the most common words used are warning, watch, and advisory which can be easily misunderstood. Warnings proceed when the weather is dangerous and possibly life-threatening that could occur within 24 hours. One of the most common warnings in North Dakota is a Blizzard warning which means that winds are at least 35 miles per hour along with a considerable amount of snow which can cause issues with visibility while traveling.

A watch is a possibility of harsh weather within 36 to 48 hours that can cause travel or visibility issues. A good example is a Winter Storm watch which makes individuals aware that the weather may change in the next couple of days, but the prediction isn’t certain. The extra time allows individuals to prepare for the harsher weather in advance and adjust possible future plans.

An advisory explains that winter weather is expected but isn’t life-threatening if individuals are careful when traveling. Watches and advisories may be closely related but watches mean that there is a higher chance of harsher winter conditions that may be hazardous.

When there is a possibility of a blizzard or other harsh weather being prepared is key to staying safe. For individuals who drive or own a vehicle having a winter kit in your car is recommended. Safety kits should contain water, non-perishable foods, a flashlight, a windshield scraper, a blanket and extra winter clothing like hats, gloves, boots and coats. Having a small tool kit and shovel is useful to have in case your vehicle has mechanical problems or gets stuck in the snow. Keeping your vehicle updated is another way to stay safe. It’s important to have good tires, proper windshield wipers, a strong battery, a full tank of gas as well as many other things. Keep maintenance up to date if one must travel in harsh winter weather. If you become stuck while driving it is important to remain in your vehicle and wait for help. Leaving a vehicle without help can cause someone to become lost very easily due to low visibility. Being in cold weather can cause hypothermia which can become life-threatening very quickly. One way to avoid hypothermia if stranded is to practice light exercises to keep up circulation. If multiple people are in a vehicle take turns sleeping for short periods of time. If an individual sleep too long by themselves, they could possibly freeze to death if not woken up periodically in order to keep their circulation and body temperature up.

During a blizzard, it is important to follow some guidelines as well. Stay indoors and limit your time if you must go outdoors. Eating properly during a storm allows the body to stay fueled and warm when faced with cold weather. Staying hydrated as well keeps the body fueled as well but individuals should limit their caffeine and alcohol intake because it can accelerate possible symptoms of hypothermia. If someone lives alone it is recommended to check on them to make sure they are prepared and safe as well.

After any harsh weather individuals should be aware of the travel conditions in their area. Travel may be limited or not advised even when the storm has passed. Staying up to date with local news is the best option to staying safe. For more information contact your local Red Cross or go to