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This week is Winter Hazard Safety week. Each day is devoted to a different topic concerning winter safety. To help with the effort, cities across the state are holding forums, providing daily winter safety tips and publicizing the effort in local newspapers and on city websites.

The week is broken down as:

Winter Weather Information Facts

  • A wide range of weather conditions can occur during a winter storm, including snow, sleet, and ice accumulations, strong winds leading to blowing and drifting snow, and dangerously cold temperatures.
  • Winter storms can affect a large area, even portions of multiple states, and can last for many days. Regions affected by a winter storm can be crippled for several days, with the effects felt for weeks. Travel becomes dangerous and even impossible.
  • Blizzard conditions occur when falling snow and strong winds, frequently at speeds of 35 mph or more, combine to produce blinding, wind-driven, blowing snow and severe drifting. Visibilities in a blizzard are significantly reduced, often to under a quarter of a mile, making travel virtually impossible.
  • A ground blizzard occurs when strong winds and existing snow cover lead to blowing snow and visibilities reduced to a quarter mile or less. The sky may be clear during a ground blizzard.
  • Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding commuters, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services. Accumulations of snow can collapse buildings, break large tree limbs, and down power lines. In rural areas, homes and farms may be isolated for days. Snow can accumulate as much as 3 or 4 inches in an hour during intense snowstorms.
  • Lake effect snow develops over open water of a lake and blows onto land. Lake effect snow results from cold air residing over a large, unfrozen lake, such as Lake Superior, and can affect locations as much as 20 miles inland from the lake shore. Very large accumulations can occur, mainly because the conditions favorable for lake effect snow can persist for several days.
  • Ice storms can be exceptionally damaging, as large ice accumulations can down trees, electrical wires, and telephone poles. Communications and power can be lost for days. Even small accumulations of ice can cause extreme hazards to motorists and pedestrians.
  • Extreme cold often accompanies a winter storm or is left in its wake. The combination of cold temperatures and wind produces a wind chill, which is a cooling effect on exposed skin. Prolonged exposure to the cold can be dangerous and life-threatening, causing hypothermia or frostbite.

Identifying the reason behind the week the HSEM press release identified the issues:

Over the last 10 years, more than 50 people drowned after falling through thin ice, and 65 percent of ice drownings were vehicle related. Last winter, 22 people died in snowmobile accidents; half those fatal events involved alcohol or drug use. And during 2005–2007 in Minnesota, officers reported snow or icy road conditions in nearly 41,000 crashes that resulted in 159 deaths and 13,000 injuries. Clearly, people are being “surprised” by weather conditions."

The plan is, no matter how harsh the winter, to make sure everyone is safe and alive at the end of it.

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