Winter Weather Emergencies Can Cause a Variety of Issues

Jan. 6, 2023

The Oswego County Emergency Management Office is urging residents to “Resolve to be Ready,” the theme of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) 2023 preparedness campaign.

“Prepare your family by creating an emergency plan and practice it,” says Oswego County Emergency Management Office Director Cathleen Palmitesso. “People should know what to do before, during, and after snowstorms and extreme weather.”

The storm over Christmas in 2022 created extreme situations to the west in Buffalo and Erie County, as well as to the north in Watertown and Jefferson County.

“The storm caused extreme blizzard conditions in Western and Northern New York that created life-threatening situations with extreme cold, zero visibility and extremely high winds,” Palmitesso notes. “Not only did tens of thousands of customers lose power for several days, but they were also unable to get to warming shelters safely due to dangerous conditions on the roads and for pedestrians. People were forced to stay in their cold homes. We were fortunate that Oswego County experienced fewer power outages and less hazardous driving conditions during the storm than our neighbors to the north and west.”

Palmitesso urged Oswego County residents to create a disaster supplies kit for any emergency. The kit should include blankets, hats and gloves for winter power outages and, as always, non-perishable food, flashlights with extra batteries, an AM/FM radio with extra batteries, and water for each person in your family.

Make sure cellular phones are fully charged before any storm. Consider installing an alternate heat source for homes to prepare for long duration power outages. However, be sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations and proper safety protocols. Alternatively, residents may identify a back-up plan for their family during this type of situation. Following these preparedness tips will better equip people to prepare for and respond to emergency situations.

“During an emergency, pay attention to weather reports and follow the advice of local officials,” Palmitesso stresses. “If necessary, warming shelters will be established in communities where the greatest need is. The locations will be announced in local media when they are ready to receive people. But if the advice is to stay off the roads due to dangerous driving conditions, people should stay home.”

Palmitesso urges people to know the definitions of winter weather terms issued by the National Weather Service:

  • Winter Storm Warning – Snow, sleet or ice is expected. Confidence is high that a winter storm will produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain and cause significant impact. People should act immediately to protect themselves.
  • Winter Storm Watch – Snow, sleet or ice is possible. Confidence is medium that a winter storm could produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain and cause significant impacts.
  • Winter Weather Advisory – Light amounts of wintery precipitation or patchy blowing snow will cause slick conditions and could affect travel if precautions are not taken. People should exercise caution.

FEMA’s website for preparedness,, urges people to prepare their homes to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping and information on how to keep pipes from freezing. Consider installing and testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups. Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medications. Remember to also consider the needs of family pets.

Be prepared for winter weather at home, at work, and in your car. Create an emergency supply kit for your car that includes jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep a full tank of gas.

During an emergency, citizens are advised to:

  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
  • Stay off roads if possible. If trapped in your car, stay inside and keep your tailpipe clear.
  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack by avoiding overexertion when shoveling snow and walking in the snow.
  • Make sure your cellular phone is enabled for Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). “The National Weather Service will issue WEAs for extreme conditions including blizzards,” Palmitesso notes. “People should immediately follow their instructions when a WEA is received.”

Palmitesso added, “We encourage people to follow the advice of FEMA and the National Weather Service on their websites to prepare now for any weather emergencies we may face.”

To review FEMA preparation tips, visit or go to for information from the National Weather Service.

More information on disaster planning is available by visiting the Oswego County Emergency Management page at, or by calling 315-591-9150.