In mid-February 2021 Texans were caught completely off guard by a massive late winter storm. Millions of people were without power and water, and hundreds of people died due to the subfreezing temperatures. In the aftermath there was a lot of finger pointing at the state level as officials determined how such a disaster could happen. Investigations revealed a number of shortcomings and failures, but it highlighted something else even more important.
People have to be prepared to weather storms on their own. It’s not a given that the state and local governments will be there to help when you need it.
Our goal is to ensure that people and their homes are ready to ride out a winter storm. That starts with knowing what winter storms are, when they can hit and what to watch out for so you can properly prepare.
What is a Winter Storm?
A winter storm is defined a storm in which hazardous winter weather conditions are expected. Hazardous winter weather includes a combination of:
- 5+ inches of snow/sleet within a 12-hour period or 7+ inches of snow/sleet within a 24-hour period.
- Ice that accumulates enough on trees or powerlines to cause damage.
- Combination of snow, ice accumulation and wind chill that is life threatening or has the potential for causing damage.
Whenever you see snow and ice start to build up, that’s one of the earliest signs that a winter storm could be on its way.
How Late Can a Winter Storm Hit?
Part of the reason the winter storm of 2021 was so bad in Texas is because almost no one expected. Given that it was mid-February many people thought that the winter weather had passed. Homeowners let their guard down, and they were caught off guard.
A winter storm can hit anytime it’s still a certain temperature outside. Even though it’s called “winter” this type of storm can actually be a problem well into spring. That means in many parts of the country a winter storm could hit in late March. Even if the weather starts to warm up there could be one last cold snap that causes damage.
What Are Some Early Warning Signs a Winter Storm is Coming?
A winter storm can come out of nowhere, but there are some warning signs to watch out for in addition to the meteorologist’s projections. For starters, it helps to understand the winter storm alert system.
Winter Storm Watch
When a winter storm watch is issued that means heavy ice, snow, sleet, a low wind chill and/or blizzard conditions could occur in the next 24-48 hours.
Winter Storm Warning
A winter storm warning is a step up from the watch warning. Anytime a warning is issued that means a winter storm is projected to hit within the next 12-24 hours.
A blizzard warning is specific to snowy conditions that limit visibility. When there’s a blizzard warning that means blizzard conditions will begin within 12-18 hours.
In addition to these three common winter weather alerts you may also see ice storm warnings, freeze watch, freeze warning and wind chill warning. The alerts tell you what to look out for so that you can see storm conditions forming long before a warning or watch is issued.
How Can Households Prepare for a Winter Storm Before It Hits?
Preparing for the cold season is key when you’re facing a possible winter storm. In freezing temperatures, preparation can prevent thousands of dollars in property damage and keep someone from having a serious injury or even dying.
Here are some fantastic resources where you can find winter storm preparation lists:
Ready.gov Winter Storm Information Sheet
CDC Heating & Lighting Safety During a Winter Storm
Selecting the Best Energy Efficient Space Heaters
5 Winter Weatherization Tips for Every Homeowner
There’s a lot you can do to protect yourself, your family and your home so that you get through a winter storm. At Major Energy we’re here to provide support rain, shine or snow. With our reliable, fixed rate energy plans there’s one less thing to worry about. Check to see what Major Energy plans are currently available.