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Winter storm safety tips

Learn more about how to prepare for winter storms in Boston. These can range from freezing rain and ice to a moderate snowfall over a few hours, to blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow that can last several days.

What is a winter storm watch? 

It means that it's likely that:

  • winter storm warning
  • blizzard warning, or
  • ice storm warning criteria will be met due to the conditions of an upcoming storm. 
WHat is a winter storm warning? 

Six (6") inches of snow or more in a 12-hour period (or eight (8") inches of snow or more in a 24-hour period) are expected within the next 12 to 36 hours. 

  • Blizzard warning: Sustained wind gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph and considerable falling or blowing snow, or both. The result is reduced visibility of less than a quarter mile for at least three hours. 
  • Ice storm warning: Half an inch or more of freezing rain.

Before a winter storm

Get ready
  • Sign up for emergency notifications through AlertBoston. 
  • Follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • Make a plan and review it! If you receive medical treatments or home health care services, work with your medical provider to determine how to maintain care and service if you are unable to leave your home for a period of time. 
  • Build an emergency kit. Be sure to add seasonal supplies to your kit, like extra winter clothing and blankets. 
Prepare for possible power outages: 
  • Fully charge your cell phone, laptop, and other electronic devices before a storm, especially if power outages are expected. 
  • Consider purchasing a portable generator or installing a generator to provide power during an outage. 
  • If you have a life support device or other medical equipment or supplies which depends on electricity, notify your utility and work with your medical provider to prepare for power outages.
Prepare your home:
  • Remove dead or rotting trees or branches around your home that could fall and cause injury or damage. 
  • Clear clogged rain gutters to allow water to flow away from your home. Melting snow and ice can build up if gutters are clogged with debris. 
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year. 
  • Properly insulate your home. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to keep cold air out. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide insulation. 
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working and have fresh batteries. 
  • Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel and consider back up heating options, such as fireplaces or woodstoves. 
  • Prepare your vehicle for winter driving. Keep the gas tank at least half-full and have a winter emergency car kit.
  • If you have a pet ensure you have enough supplies for them. 

During a winter storm

Safety tips
  • Limit outdoor activities as much as possible.
  • Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing instead of a single heavy layer.
    • Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellant.  
    • Wear a hat, mittens (not gloves), and sturdy waterproof boots to protect your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs. 
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • During extreme cold weather, follow our cold weather safety tips!
Protect your Pets:
  • Keep pets indoors when possible. Short-coated dogs may need a coat or sweater during walks.
  • If you have outdoor shelter for your pets ensure that it is dry and draft-free. 
  • Care for your pets feet by gently rubbing the bottom of your pet's paws with a damp towel or buy boots to prevent irritation. Salt and other chemicals used to melt ice and snow can harm your pets feet.  
  • Provide extra food and water for pets that have been outside. 
  • Use a  leash when walking by water. If your pet falls through ice do not go onto the ice to rescue them. If you can't reach them from the shore call 911. 
  • Do not lock pets in the car. 

After a winter storm

  • Call 9-1-1 to report emergencies and 311 for all non-emergency matters, including downed power lines and gas leaks. 
  • Clear snow from sidewalk (within 3 hours after snowing stops) on your property. This includes nearby curb cuts at least 42-inches wide to allow access for wheelchair users and those pushing strollers. 
  • Clear exhaust vents from direct vent gas furnace systems to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • Dig out fire hydrants and storm drains in your neighborhood.
  • Property owners and businesses should clear snow from walkways, entrances and access ramps. 
  • Check your roof and clear accumulated snow.
  • Use caution and take frequent breaks when shoveling snow.
  • Stay away from downed utility wires. Always assume a downed power line is live. 
  • Stay off streets and roads until they are clear of snow. 
  • Clear snow from around vehicle exhaust pipes before starting the vehicle. 
  • Don't park too close to corners so public safety vehicles and plows can maneuver safely.
  • Make sure emergency generators or secondary heating stems are well-ventilated because their fumes contain carbon monoxide.
  • Be aware of children playing in the streets, particularly climbing on or running out from behind large snowdrifts. Parents should remind their children to be aware of plowing operations and traffic. 
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions. and those who may need additional assistance. 
  • Continue to monitor media for emergency information. 
  • Follow instructions from public safety officials.
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