Winter Preparedness Safety Tips

Before Storms   Storms Arrive   Road Conditions   Trapped In Car   Advisories

Also see: Summer Safety

Before Storms Arrive

  • Check the weather daily to keep up on forecasts of weather moving into our area.
  • Get a NOAA Weather Radio to monitor severe weather.
  • Consider programming the non-emergency number for the Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska State Patrols - 800-525-5555 - into your cell phone. Due to the high volume of calls that 911 operators receive, it might be better to use to report highway saftey related non-emergencies.
  • Do essential shopping such as grocery, gasoline, pharmacy, etc. before the storm hits. If an infant is in the house, be sure to take stock of formula and diapers.
  • Be prepared if you lose power to provide alternative home heating or stay at a friend/relative's house until the power can come back on.
  • Check operation and maintenance of any snow removal equipment and keep it in good working order.
  • Stock up on canned goods and batteries. Buy goods you use regularly to keep them fresh.
  • Keep cars and other vehicles fueled and in good repair, with a winter emergency kit in each. The "coffee can" heater can be safely used to heat a vehicle during an emergency. The contents of the can are emptied and a lit candle(s) placed inside. It can then be suspended from the rearview mirror or set on the floor with lid underneath to warm hands or melt snow.
      Example kit:
    • Empty metal paint can w/ lid (you can get these at home supply stores)
    • Water bottle 8 oz.
    • 16oz can of unsalted peanuts
    • Emergency candles (and/or Sterno canned cooking fuel)
    • Lighter
    • 8 hr light stick
    • Emergency blanket
    • Rain poncho
    • First aid kit
    • Kleenex pocket pak
    • Pocket knife or multi-tool
    • Small amount of string
  • Other things you may want to keep in your vehicle during the winter: Jumper cables, a 12v tire inflater, 12v cell phone charger for your cell phone, a flashlight, a thermal blanket (especially for children), sand bags, and/or a small shovel.

When Storms Arrive

  • Monitor your NOAA Weather Radio or keep a local radio and/or TV station on for information and emergency instructions.
  • If you go outside for any reason, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water-repellent. Keep your head covered. As much as 50% of body heat can escape from the head. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extremely cold air. Wear oversized insulated boots with two pairs of socks to protect your feet.
  • Avoid travel if possible. If you must travel, do so during daylight. Don't travel alone. Stay on main roads, and keep others informed of your schedule. Tell them that you will call when you arrive where you are going. Take your time and take it slow. Take a cell phone.
  • If shoveling snow, use a proper snow shovel and lift with your leg muscles, not your back. Know your limits when shoveling snow. Rest frequently and pace yourself. If you become breathless, stop, go indoors and warm up before continuing. If you experience chest or arm pain or numbness, stop immediately and go indoors.
511 Travel Info
Minnesota participates in the 511 Travel Info program.

The phone system identifies your telephone prefix when calling from a wireline phone. It identifies the communications tower that your wireless phone is connected to at the time you place the call. Knowing the location you are calling from allows the 511 system to provide information specific to that area of the state first.

The system is free of charge and provides both weather and information regarding state road construction and maintenance projects.

Minnesota Road Conditions

If A Blizzard Traps You In Your Car

  • DO NOT LEAVE THE VEHICLE. Your vehicle is your best source of heat and protection from the elements during an emergency, especially if you created an emergency weather kit.
  • Stay calm and think.
  • If you have a cell phone, contact the authorities. Try and be as descriptive as possible about your location if you lack a newer GPS cell phone.
  • Run the engine and heater to keep warm while cracking a downwind window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Many sites will recommend you run your engine for 10 minutes and then turn it off for a while to conserve gas. We -DO NOT- recommend you do this as it may not start again (and then what are you going to do?). An engine left idling with a full tank of gas can run for many hours (10 gallons of gas in a 6 cylinder car will give you 10 hours of heat). You should inspect and clear windows, lights, and the exhaust pipe every so often, however.
  • Use the time you have wisely. Put on your emergency lights so that you are more visible to potential rescuers. Melt snow so that you have drinking water. Move anything you may use from the trunk to the cab so that it warms up. If you have an emergency kit, get things out and inventory your items. The emergency blanket can provide extra warmth. The poncho can be used as a wind breaker or to hold more insulation (balled newspaper or blankets). Tie the light stick to your rear view mirror to provide light and increase your visibility to potential rescuers.
  • Avoid falling asleep.


  • Winter Storm Watch - Issued when conditions are favorable for the development of hazardous weather elements such as heavy snow and/or blizzard conditions, or significant accumulations of freezing rain or sleet. These conditions may occur singly, or in combination with others. Watches are usually issued 24 to 48 hours in advance of the event(s).
  • Winter Storm Warning/Advisory - Issued when hazardous winter weather conditions are imminent or very likely, including any occurrence or combination of heavy snow, wind- driven snow, sleet and/or freezing rain/drizzle. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued for up to a 12 hour duration, but can be extended out to 24 hours. The term "near-blizzard" may be incorporated into the "winter storm warning" for serious situations which fall just short of official blizzard conditions.
  • Heavy Snow Warning - Issued when hazardous heavy snow conditions are imminent or very likely. Heavy Snow Warnings are usually issued for significant amounts of snow which are forecast that will make travel dangerous. If you must travel...keep an extra water in your vehicle in case of an emergency..
  • Blizzard Warning - Issued for winter storms with sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable falling snow (Blizzard Warning) and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile. If there is only blowing /drifting snow occurring, then it is called a Ground Blizzard Warning. These conditions are expected to last at least 3 hours.

Less serious conditions that may result in an advisory are:

  • Snow Advisory - Snow amounts between 1 and 3 inches.
  • Dense Fog Advisory - Visibilities at or below 1/4 mile.
  • Wind Chill Advisory - Wind chill temperatures of -20 degrees or colder.
  • Freezing Rain/Drizzle Advisory - Accumulations making road surfaces, sidewalks, etc. hazardous.
  • Blowing/Drifting Snow - Visibilities intermittently at/or below 1/4 mile.

NOAA Winter Weather Safety and Awareness

FEMA Winter Storms

Minnesota Random Weather Facts

Rain fall - Bemidji's annual average precipitation is 24.99 inches.