Skip to main content

Oregon State Flag An official website of the State of Oregon » Homepage

Winter Storms

Preparing for Winter Storms

Although periods of extreme cold cannot always be predicted far in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes provide you with several days' notice. Listen to weather forecasts regularly, and check your emergency kit whenever a period of extreme cold is predicted.

Check Oregon weather alerts (NOAA)

Do you know the differences between watches and warnings?

Winter weather advisoryExpect winter weather conditions to cause inconvenience and hazards
Front/freeze warningExpect below-freezing temperatures
Winter storm watchBe alert; a storm is likely
Winter storm warningThe storm is in or entering the area
Blizzard warningSeek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snow drifts, and life-threatening wind chill

How to avoid frostbite

  • Be sure to protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold weather. Adults and children should wear:
    • A hat
    • A scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
    • Sleeves that are snug at the wrist
    • Mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
    • Water-resistant coat
    • Waterproof and insulated boots or shoes
  • When going outside in cold weather, wear several layers of loose clothing, including a hat. Layering provides better insulation. Layers can also be removed if you become too hot.
  • Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly. When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when temperatures are only cool.
  • Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton.
  • Stay dry. Wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm.
  • Move into warm locations periodically. Limit the amount of time outside on extremely cold days.
  • Move around. Physical activity raises body temperature.
  • Do not ignore shivering. It's an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
  • Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic beverages which cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.


  • When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced.
  • Low body temperature may make you unable to think clearly or move well.
  • You may not know you have hypothermia.
  • If your temperature is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.
  • If medical care is not available, begin warming the person, as follows:
    • Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
    • If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
    • Warm the center of the body first — chest, neck, head, and groin — using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
    • Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
    • After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
    • Get medical attention as soon as possible.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless poison gas. Many household items — including gas and oil burning furnaces, portable generators, and charcoal grills — produce this poison gas. 
  • Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.
  • Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness and death.
  • If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, seek fresh air and consult a health care professional right away.
  • The only way to know if you are being exposed to carbon monoxide is by using a detector. Learn more about how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

What to do during a winter storm

  • Keep posted on weather conditions. Listen to local media sources or your NOAA weather radio.
  • Prepare for isolation at home. Keep an emergency kit on hand.
  • Use lights for heat if the furnace goes out. Don't use gas stoves.
  • Prevent wood/oil-burning stoves, fireplaces, or electric heaters from overheating and becoming fire hazards. Fill all liquid fuel heating devices outside buildings.
  • Stay indoors. Overexertion from activities such as snow shoveling is a major cause of winter storm deaths.
  • Dress in warm layers to avoid frostbite. Learn more about frostbite.
  • Travel only if necessary, and then only in daylight on major roads. Check Oregon's Department of Transportation Trip Check or call 5-1-1 before heading out.
  • Do not travel alone. let someone know your schedule and destination.

If caught in a vehicle:

  • Don't leave the vehicle unless help is in sight.
  • Ensure proper ventilation while running the engine.
  • Signal trouble by raising the hood, tying a cloth on the antenna, or turning on flashers.
  • Don't burn anything in the vehicle.

Prepare your home for winter

  • If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year. Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector, or find one in the yellow pages of your telephone directory under “chimney cleaning.” Also, if you'll be using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly, and replace batteries twice a year.
  • Your ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age, and older people are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. If you are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently, and check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.
  • Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze. To the extent possible, weatherproof your home by adding weather-stripping, insulation, insulated doors and storm windows, or thermal-pane windows.
  • If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure that they have access to unfrozen water.


✔ Insulate walls and attic.
✔ Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
✔ Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
✔ Insulate any water lines that run along outer walls (water will be less likely to freeze).
✔ Service snow-removal equipment.
✔ Have chimney and flue inspected.
✔ Install easy-to-read outdoor thermometer.

Prepare your car for winter

You can avoid many dangerous winter travel problems by planning ahead. Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends. In addition, every fall:

  • Have the radiator system serviced, or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze, as needed.
  • Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Replace any worn tires, and check the air pressure in the tires.
  • During winter, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.


Keep your car fueled and in good working order. Be sure to check the following:

✔ Antifreeze
✔ Windshield wiper fluid (wintertime mixture)
✔ Heater
✔ Brakes
✔ Ignition
✔ Emergency flashers
✔ Exhaust
✔ Tires (air pressure and wear)
✔ Fuel
✔ Oil
✔ Brake fluid
✔ Defroster
✔ Battery
✔ Radiator

Fact sheets



Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After an Emergencyfact sheet

See also: CDC Extreme Cold Prevention Guide