Are You Winter Ready?

Photo of Chesley McNeil, 11Alive Meteorologist

Chesley McNeil, 11 Alive meteorologist

This guest post from 11Alive Meteorologist Chesley McNeil kicks off Winter Weather Preparedness Week and offers a few tips to make sure that you are winter ready.

It’s that time of year, when the leaves begin falling from trees, days are shorter, and temperatures drop. We are getting closer to winter and the time to prepare is now.

In the South, when meteorologists mention winter weather preparedness or winter weather safety, most folks will instantly think of “the white stuff.” But there is much more to winter than just snow. In fact, the Atlanta metro area only receives an average of two inches per year.

As bad as that can be, we are more susceptible to extreme cold and ice! Yes, ice storms are the most crippling when it comes to winter weather. Ice is heavy, weighing down trees, roofs and power lines. It’s hard to drive or even walk on ice, and depending on the temperatures, it can hang around.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), cold weather is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. So, how do we prepare ourselves? Well, I’m sure you have heard these tips in the past, perhaps every year before the winter season, but they are tried and true methods that can save you and your families’ lives when Old Man Winter is at his worst.

Pay attention to the forecast:
Last year, meteorologists used terms like “Polar Vortex.”  The polar vortex is a large pocket of very cold air, typically the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere, which sits over the polar region. Occasionally, this pocket of air can get dislodged farther south than normal, leading to cold outbreaks in Canada and the U.S. If you keep an eye on the weather, you will often get a heads up on what conditions are expected over the next 36 to 48 hours or possibly even further out.

Here are a few terms to be familiar with:

  • Frost/Freeze Warning:  Expect below-freezing temperatures.
  • Winter Weather Watch:  A significant winter weather event (i.e. heavy snow, heavy sleet, significant freezing rain) or combination of events is expected, but not imminent, for the watch area, watches provide 12 to 36 hour notice of the possibility of severe winter weather. This is the time to prepare.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: Expect winter weather conditions (e.g. accumulation of snow, freezing rain and sleet) that could cause severe inconvenience. Such an advisory is issued up to 36 hours before an event that has an 80 percent or greater chance of winter precipitation.
  • Winter Weather Warning:  A significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is, imminent, or likely, and is a threat to life and property. These warnings are typically issued up to 36 hours before an event that has an 80 percent or greater chance of winter precipitation. This is the time to put your winter safety plan into action.

For more information, visit the National Weather Service website.

Have a plan:

You should have a plan in place because your family may not be together when a winter storm strikes.  Have a plan of how you will reach out to one another. Designate a place where everyone in the family knows to meet. Plans should include the work place, daycare and school.

Replace or check the items in your Ready kit:

Winter storms often cause power outages. Battery-powered items are essential.  Make sure to keep extra batteries for flashlights, TVs, radios, etc. Replace blankets and towels and any expired medications. You should also have a good supply of drinking water, canned food and baby formula.

Check the dates on these items as well and replace as needed.

For a complete list of tips, check out

Remember, even though winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21, the season in North Georgia runs from November through March and the coldest months are December, January and February.  Now is the time to get prepared.

Chesley McNeil is a meteorologist for 11Alive. He also greets viewers every weekday as the host of his own morning show, “Wake Up With Chesley.”