Preparing for winter weather

Every year, Illinois averages at least five major winter storms that impact millions of people. The best time to prepare for winter’s snow, cold and ice is before such weather hits.

Being prepared for winter doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. It could be as simple as making sure your vehicle is in good winter driving condition, adding a winter survival kit to your car, changing your furnace filter and stocking a home emergency supply kit. Preparing for winter also means adjusting your driving habits. Snowy or ice-coated roads and reduced visibility due to fog or blowing snow result in thousands of vehicle crashes in Illinois every year.

Many of these can be avoided by simply slowing down on city streets, rural roads and highways. Recent traffic studies have shown that many times, minor accumulations of snow or ice on roads can be just as dangerous for motorists as major snowstorms.

• 194 people have died from exposure to cold temperatures in Illinois since 1995.

• The coldest temperature on record occurred on January 5, 1999, when the mercury dipped to minus 36 degrees near Congerville in Woodford County.

• On average, Illinois experiences five severe winter storms each year. Nine winter storms happened in 2014-15, compared to four In 2015-16 and only two in 2016-17.

• Winter driving conditions contribute to an average of 27,879 vehicle crashes, 4,338 injuries and 49 fatalities in Illinois each year.

• Average annual snowfall ranges from 37 inches of snow in Chicago, to as little as 6-10 inches in southern Illinois.

• The greatest snowfall on record from a single storm occurred near the town of Astoria in Fulton County, where 37.8 inches was recorded on February 27-28, 1900. More recently, 27.9 inches of snow was measured near Waukegan in Lake County, from January 3-5, 2015.

• On average, locations from just south of Quincy, through Lincoln, to Watseka experience more freezing rain and ice storms than any other part of the state.

• Most of the time, cold is judged in terms of a thermometer reading. With people and other living things though, both temperature and wind speed are needed to produce a “wind chill factor.” The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the combined effects of the wind speed and
cold temperatures. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. The wind chill shows how cold the wind makes exposed flesh feel
and is a good way to determine the potential for frostbite or hypothermia.

Remember, wind chill only applies to people. The effects of wind chill are different for animals. If the temperature is 35 degrees and the wind chill is 10 degrees, objects such as pipes or cars will only cool to 35. The wind chill factor does not apply to non-living objects.

Take time now to prepare your family, home, vehicles and driving habits for everything from a dusting of snow to a major winter storm!

Winter Weather Preparedness Guide provided by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency

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