Winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms including blizzards can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds.
How to Protect Yourself from Winter Weather
If you are under a Winter Storm warning, find shelter right away.
Know your winter weather terms:
Winter Storm Warning
Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.
Winter Storm Watch
Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.
Winter Weather Advisory
Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life-threatening situations.
Alert Prince George's
For timely severe weather and emergency notifications, go to alert.mypgc.us and sign up for Alert Prince George's. Warnings and emergency updates will be sent directly to your cell phone (text), landline phone, and/or email address. The service is free, but text charges may apply, so check with your cell phone carrier before selecting text alerts.
- Try to stay indoors and make trips outside as brief as possible. Limit outdoor recreational activity. Outdoor cold weather exertion puts extra strain on the heart.
- If outside for long periods, seek temporary warmth by stopping into one of the County's Warming Centers.
- Wear a hat, scarf, or mask to cover your face and mouth.
- Sleeves should be snug at the wrist.
- Several layers of loose-fitting clothing should be worn under a heavy coat.
If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Never use generators, grills, camp stoves or similar devices indoors, inside a garage, or near the air intake of your house because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Only use combustion heaters if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space
- Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch fire, such as drapes, furniture or bedding
- Do not use an extension cord
During cold winter weather, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Make sure there is adequate antifreeze. Keep a cell phone charger and a charged cell phone in your car in case you have an emergency. Never leave a person of any age alone in a vehicle. Have extra blankets and supplies in case of a breakdown.
During a period of extreme cold temperatures, animals must not be left outside unattended. Leaving animals outside unattended in these conditions may be considered an act of cruelty and pet owners could be charged and fined accordingly.
The Prince George's County Department of Social Services (DSS) staff, as well as community-based providers, will continue to reach out to homeless community members to urge them to seek shelter during periods of extreme cold temperatures.
- Individuals in need of Emergency Shelter should call the 24-hour Homeless Resource Line at 1-888-731-0999 for location information.
- Residents concerned about the well-being of a homeless individual can complete this online form, and the Street Outreach Team will attempt to locate the individual and offer resources and support.
For additional information on County services contact PGC311 by calling 3-1-1 or 301-883-4748 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, or through the PGC311.com website.
In the event of extreme heat or extreme cold temperatures, Warming Centers throughout the County will be open for residents, especially the most vulnerable, to temporarily escape the elements.
Find a Warming Center near you.
Prevent Hypothermia and Frostbite
Extreme cold is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people, such as the very young, seniors, those without shelter or who are stranded, or who live in a home that is poorly insulated and/or without heat. Hypothermia can result from prolonged exposure to the cold. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. When the body’s store of energy is used up, the result is hypothermia. Because hypothermia can affect the brain, a person may not be aware that it is happening, and not take appropriate steps to prevent damage.
- Shivering, exhaustion
- Confusion, fumbling hands
- Memory loss, slurred speech
- For infants – bright red, cold skin, very low energy
What to do:
- If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency – get medical attention immediately
- If the person is unconscious and does not seem to have a pulse or is not breathing, call 9-1-1
While waiting for medical care:
- Get the victim into a warm room or shelter
- Remove any wet clothing
- 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, nonalcoholic, beverages can help increase body temperatures if the victim is conscious
Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas, typically the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, or toes. Signs of frostbite include redness or pain in any skin area, a white or grayish-yellow skin area, and skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numb.
What to do:
- Get into a warm area as soon as possible
- Immerse the affected area in warm, but not hot water
- Warm the affected area using body heat
- Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming
- Do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes if at all possible
- Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage the area