Winter Weather Preparedness Week  

image of snowflakes

NOAA Wakefield has compiled a list of resources and information as part of this week’s Virginia Winter Weather Preparedness Week. Each tab offers a day’s worth of education and strategies for getting your home and family winter-ready (be honest: do you know the difference between a winter storm watch, warning, or advisory?). These forecast experts also share temperature and precipitation outlooks for 2023-24, noting that Southeast Virginia is most likely to experience above average precipitation.

RHHD’s Health Emergency Coordinator Ed Porner is thrilled to have this new resource. In the conversation below, he tells us why preparing now for severe winter weather is critical and offers some tips on how to do it.

What, from your perspective, are the biggest misconceptions people have about winter weather and winter safety? Our actions in confronting winter weather are potentially major killers, especially in the form of fires, asphyxiation from burning items for warmth in the house, and improper generator usage. Believe it or not, many more people are injured or killed in these ways than suffer from hypothermia each year. As opposed to other disasters—where the event itself is usually the cause of injury or property loss—winter weather losses are often caused because we aren’t prepared for and/or knowledgeable about dealing with the cold. As in every disaster, we also have to work against the “it won’t happen to me” mindset, because we tend to push away and minimize possible negative events in our lives. Preparedness might not get us fully out of trouble, but it will give us the best possible chance to come out unscathed.

Why do people need to be thinking about winter weather now? During the holiday season especially, it’s really easy to get distracted or to put off preparing for a cold-weather incident. But put yourself in that future moment, when you can’t get out of the house and the power’s out: What do you want to open your pantry to find? What if you get stuck for 24 hours on the interstate (as happened in 2022 in northern Virginia): what do you want to find in the back seat to keep you warm and safe? Now think about trying to locate those things in duress either immediately before or during an event. Shelves will be bare (assuming you can get to the store at all); fuel might be scarce; pharmacies might be closed; you might not be able to contact your kids because you haven’t talked about a communications plan, city services (ambulance, fire, and police) might be stretched thin, and a sense of low-key panic might ensue.   Don’t be in that position. Make your list today and put your mind at ease!

What step are you personally taking this week to prepare for winter weather? I’m doing the rounds with family, friends, and neighbors, especially those who are mobility impaired or who count on someone else for help. We make sure they have plans for any eventuality, which includes plans for getting them out of their house and to a safe place if needed. I’m also restocking a few things in my home emergency kit that have shelf lives, like cans of food and batteries. Don’t forget to add some “comfort” items in your emergency kits BTW… some tea or chocolate can go a long way in making things more bearable!    What are some helpful questions people can ask to start creating their winter weather plan?  

  • Do you have a plan to stay warm if you get stranded in a car for an extended period?
  • Do you have a safe source of heat during an electrical outage? If you’re counting on your fireplace, when’s the last time it was cleaned and inspected?     If you have a generator, do you know how to properly set it up?
  • Do you have a Carbon Monoxide detector in your home?
  • Do you have an emergency kit in your car and home that contains cold-weather items?
  • Do you have food (and water) sufficient for a one-week electrical outage?
  • Do you have a supply of essential medication should you not be able to get out of your house?

In addition to Virginia’s Winter Weather Preparedness site, Ed also suggests checking out’s resources on winter weather and NWS’s explainer on extremely cold weather.