Kansas Winter Weather Awareness: Know the dangers

Wintertime poses a wide range of threats to the American public. Whether it be vehicle accidents caused by slick roads, exposure to the cold, or fires resulting from the improper use of heaters, hundreds of people are injured or killed each year as a direct result of winter weather. Kansas is no exception.

Winter storms can range from a moderate snow or freezing rain over a few hours to a massive blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Some winter storms are large enough to affect several states while others affect only a single community. Conditions can change in an instant.

High winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall, and dangerously cold temperatures are the main hazards associated with winter storms. Damage from ice storms or snowstorms can maroon people at home without utilities or other services for days after an event. Slick roads from ice or snow buildup can result in large numbers of vehicle accidents. Severely cold temperatures and wind chills during and after a winter storm can lead to hypothermia and kill anyone caught outside for too long. The aftermath of a winter storm can impact a community or region for days, weeks, or even months, incurring steep economic costs.

Terms to know

Blizzard: Blowing or falling snow with winds of at least 35 mph, reducing visibilities to a quarter of a mile or less for at least three hours. Winds lofting the current snow pack and reducing visibilities without any falling snow is called a ground blizzard.

Freezing rain: Caused by rain falling on surfaces with a temperature below freezing. The rain freezes upon contact with the ground. Large build-ups of ice can down trees and power lines and coat roads.

Sleet: Rain and melted snow that has begun refreezing when it reaches the ground. Sleet tends to be softer than hail and is easily compacted. Sleet can make roads slippery very quickly.

Wind chill: The apparent temperature the body feels when wind is factored into the equation.

For information on winter weather and how to prepare, see www.weather.gov/top/winterprepare

Information thanks to the National Weather Service Topeka.

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