Winter Storm States

Winter storms can occur in almost every state, but pose the greatest risk in these States: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

About Winter Storms


Most residents in the United States will experience some form of severe weather related to a winter storm at time point. Severe weather includes strong winds, freezing temperatures, icy road conditions, and heavy rain and/or sleet. These conditions can also result in the lost of heat, power, and communications services. These disruptions can last for many days, so it’s important to be prepared for winter storm conditions ahead of time.

Most injuries and deaths associated with winter storms happen to people involved in traffic accidents and from hypothermia (prolonged exposure to extremely cold conditions).

Winter Storm Terms

These terms are commonly used by authorities to describe winter storm conditions that may exist in your area. Pay attention to your TV and local radio news stations for information about current and emerging weather conditions.

Freezing Rain

A layer of ice has formed on roads and walkways, making them slippery and dangerous.


Rain is freezing into ice pellets before hitting the ground. This makes road and walkways to become slippery and dangerous.

Winter Weather Advisory

Cold temperatures, ice and snow fall are expected.

Winter Storm Watch

Severe weather such as heavy snow and ice is probable in the next day or two.

Winter Storm Warning

Severe winter conditions including heavy snow and icy conditions have begun or will begin shortly.

Blizzard Warning

Heavy snow and strong winds will produce snow, creating zero visibility conditions, deep snow drifts and extremely dangerous wind chills are likely.

Front/Freeze Warning

Below freezing temperatures are likely.

Important Tips for Preparing Your Home for a Winter Storm

  • Check the structural stability of your roof by hiring a contractor. Winter months can result in heavy snowfall which can result in additional weight.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated with weather stripping around your doors and window. This helps to keep warm air inside.
  • Cold weather can cause pips to break. Make sure you know how to turn off water values.
  • Insulate your pipes with by wrapping them in newspaper and plastic wrap. In addition, let your faucets drip a little during freezing weather. This will help prevent your pipes from freezing.
  • In cold winter months, people tend to use alternative forms of heating (room heaters, etc.) and don’t always take the necessary safety precautions when doing so. Make sure you have fire extinguishers on hand in case of a fire, and make sure everyone in the house knows how to use them.
  • In addition to your standard Emergency Supplies, make sure to add the following items to prepare you and your family for winter storm conditions: Rock salt (to melt ice on walkways), Sand (to improve traction on walkways and driveways), Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment, and warm clothing and blankets.

Additional Tips in Case of a Winter Storm Watch

  • Avoid any unnecessary travel. Conditions may not be safe.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, your local radio station, and television stations, or cable television such as The Weather Channel for current updates on current or emerging weather conditions.

Additional Tips In Case of a Winter Storm Warning

  • Stay indoors during the storm. Avoid any travel
  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of lightweight clothing, gloves, and a hat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the extreme cold.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways. Wear proper footwear designed for winter conditions
  • If your pipes freeze, remove the insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Open faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold.
  • Avoid build-up of toxic fumes by maintaining proper ventilation when using kerosene heaters. Refill kerosene heaters outside and keep them three feet from any flammable objects.
  • If necessary conserve fuel, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Close heating vents in unoccupied rooms.

Important Tips for Preparing your Car for Winter Storms

During winter months, make sure you keep a full tank of gas in your car in case you need to leave your home. During or after severe weather conditions, gas stations may not be open. In addition, have professional mechanic inspect and fix any problems with these items at the beginning of each winter season:

  • Make sure that the heater and defroster in your care are work properly.
  • Make sure the lights and flashing hazard lights are working properly.
  • Make sure your tires have adequate tread. All-weather radial tires are adequate for most winter conditions. Note that some areas require that vehicles be equipped with chains or snow tires.
  • Ensure the Antifreeze fluid level in your car is sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Make sure you battery and ignition system is in top condition. Make sure battery terminals are clean.
  • Check the brake fluid levels and your brake pads for signs of heavy wear.
  • Check for leaks and crimped pipes in your exhaust systems. Repair or replace if necessary. Leaks in your exhaust system can emit Carbon Monoxide which is deadly and gives no warning when present.
  • Fuel and air filters - Keep water out of the fuel and air filtration system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
  • Check the level and weight of your car’s oil. Heavy oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as effectively.
  • Repair any problems with your car’s windshield wiper equipment. Maintain proper level of washer fluid.

Car Travel In a Winter Storm (Not Recommended)

  • Make sure you have an Emergency Preparedness Kit in your car.
  • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use. This will also keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Communicate your destination, route, and your estimated time of arrival to someone else.
  • Eat regularly and drink lots of fluids. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Preparing for a Winter Storm

Being prepared for a winter storm or any other type of disaster requires preparation beforehand. There are three important steps you should complete in preparation for a winter storm. To make this even easier, Essential Packs provides you with a FREE online Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide that takes your step-by-step through the process:

Having the proper emergency preparedness kit, having a plan, and knowing what to do before a winter storm strikes, will greatly improve you and your family’s chances of being safe. Complete the 3-Step Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide today!

Get A Winter Storm Emergency Kit

Getting an Emergency Preparedness Kit for your home, office (or school), and car(s) is an essential first step in being prepared for a winter storm. Emergency Preparedness Kits from Essential Packs, provide you and your family with the emergency supplies your family needs to last for 3 days (72 hours). Deluxe Kits from Essential Packs are compliant with FEMA's guidelines and include important items like: emergency food and drinking water, flashlights, radios, first-aid supplies, sanitation supplies, emergency blankets, waterproof ponchos, and much more.


Get A Winter Storm Preparedness Kit

Before it's too late...

Residential Office School Car
Get a winter storm emergency kit


For additional help on selecting the right kit, visit Step 1 - Get A Kit of our Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide.

Make a Plan

In order to know what to do when a winter storm occurs, you need to create a Family Emergency Plan. Sit down with your family members and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go, and what you will do in the event of a disaster or emergency.

To make this easy, Essential Packs provides you with a Family Emergency Planning Document that you can download for FREE. Simply open this PDF document and fill-in the blanks, then, print a copy for each family member, and store one copy in your Emergency Preparedness Kit.

You should update your Family Emergency Plan every six months, as phone number, work locations, and other important information could change.

For more help on creating a Family Emergency Plan, visit Step 2 - Make A Plan of our Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide.

Be Informed

The final step to getting prepared is to be informed about what to do before, during, and after a winter storm. FEMA's In-Depth Citizen's Guide to Disaster Preparedness helps you do this by providing you with comprehensive emergency preparedness information a variety of disasters.

Visit Step 3 - Be Informed of our Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide to download FEMA's comprehensive, 200 page book called, "Are You Ready? An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness".