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January 3, 2013

Know your stuff when it comes to winter

NORMAN — “Oh the weather outside is frightful…” We all know the song but are you ready for all that winter weather brings?

“The categories can help you know how severe the storm may be and how much time you may have to prepare,” said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist.

The National Weather Service calls winter storms “deceptive killers” because, in most cases, they only indirectly cause deaths. In other words, it is not the storm that gets people, but accidents on icy roads or hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.

And that is where understanding the difference between a winter weather outlook and a winter weather storm warning can come in handy.

For the record, a winter storm outlook projects that storm conditions are possible within two to five days. Winter weather advisories are issued when conditions are expected to cause serious inconveniences and could be hazardous, but are not life threatening when caution is applied.

Winter storm watches signal storms are possible locally, while winter storm warnings are issued when storms are occurring or will soon occur.

Three other terms to commit to memory: Freezing rain is actually rain that freezes when it hits the ground. By contrast, sleet is rain that is frozen before it hits the ground. Both can cause slippery roads and walkways. A blizzard warning means sustained or frequent winds of 35 miles per hour or more with lots of falling or blowing snow is expected for three or more hours.

Brown said now, before winter settles in, is the time to make sure you have all the essentials in your emergency kit.

“Do you have rock salt, sand and snow removal equipment? Check to be sure there’s sufficient heating fuel, and enough clothing and blankets to ensure warmth,” she said. “Don’t forget to include pets and other animals in all your preparations.”

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