Winter Weather

Contact Information

Severe winter weather can consist of excessive snow, ice, and freezing rain, often accompanied by dangerously low temperatures. These hazards can cause extended power outages, make roads and walkways unsafe to use, and limit access to normal community services.

Before Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

Emergency Kit

Before winter approaches, add the following supplies to your home, work, and car emergency kits:
  • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice. The Environmental Protection Agency lists recommended products.
  • Sand or kitty litter to improve traction
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment
  • Heating considerations. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, store a good supply of appropriate fuel.
  • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm. Keep extra clothes and boots in vehicles.

Prepare Your Household for Winter

  • Insulate walls and attics, and caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. 
  • Clear rain gutters, repair roof leaks, and cut away tree branches that could fall during a storm. 
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Insulate exposed pipes and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outdoors.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in your household knows how to use them.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).

Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Check or have a mechanic check the following items in your car:

  • Familiarize yourself with Renton snow routes for plowing and sanding.
  • Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing
  • Battery and ignition system – should be in good conditions and battery terminals should be clean
  • Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels
  • Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary.
  • Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
  • Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights – ensure they work properly.
  • Oil – check for level and weight.
  • Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
  • Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level
  • Install good winter tires – Make sure tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions.
  • Pack an emergency kit in your vehicle.

Other Safety Tips

  • Store a NOAA Weather Radio to receive local alerts and warnings from the National Weather Service.
  • Minimize travel. Keep emergency supplies in your vehicle.
  • Bring pets and companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

During Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

 Safety Information

  • Stay indoors during any storm
  • Walk and drive carefully. Stay inside unless absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling show. Overexertion can cause heart attacks. Use caution, take frequent breaks, push snow instead of lifting and lift lighter loads.
  • Keep dry. Change out of wet clothing to avoid loss of body heat.
  • Know what to do in case of frostbite or hypothermia.
  • If pipes freeze, remove any insulation and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting with the sections most exposed to the cold.
  • Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid toxic build-up of fumes. Refuel heaters outside and keep them at least 3 feet away from flammable objects.
  • If you are going away for the winter, leave the heat on at at least 55°F.

Dress for the Weather

  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Many light layers are better than one heavy layer. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat to prevent loss of body heat.An infographic showing how to dress for winter weather

Stranded in a Vehicle

  • Pull off the roadway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the antenna or a window.
  • Remain in your vehicle. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Do not abandon your vehicle on the roadway, it may be towed.
  • Run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour to keep warm. Periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe.
  • Try not to waste battery power.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so rescue workers can see you.

Resources

Renton Snow Routes
City of Renton Public Works Department crews follow these designated routes when plowing/sanding during a snow event.

Renton Weather Forecast
Seven day weather forecast for the Renton area from the National Weather Service.

Take Winter by Storm
General preparedness information for winter weather and storms.

Frostbite and Hypothermia
Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia and how to provide care for people experiencing symptoms.

Generator Safety
Safe generator guidelines for usage during a power outage.

Power Outage Safety
Information about keeping your household safe during a power outage.

Winter Ready Tips

Heater Safety

As days grow colder and residents rely more on heating sources, it is important to be aware of the potential problems that can be associated with baseboard heaters, space heaters, fire places, wood stoves, and radiators. Heating equipment causes many of the residential fires that occur from November through February.

Renton Regional Fire Authority suggest these tips to help prevent a fire in your home.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from any heat source (fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators, or space heaters).

  • Have a qualified professional clean and inspect your chimney and vents every year.

  • Store cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container, and keep it outside at least 10 feet from your home and any nearby buildings.

  • Never use your oven to heat your home.

  • Turn space heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

  • Plug only one heating-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.

  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Test them at least once a month.

For more information, contact Renton Regional Fire Public Education at 425-430-7058.

Home

  • Look for potential hazards and obstacles. Unblock rain gutters, repair cracks and leaks throughout your home, clear branches or debris that are in danger of falling on your house or vehicle.

  • Winterize with sound insulation, weather-stripping frames, storm windows and caulking.

  • Insulate pipes (insulation, plastic, and even newspapers help) or turn on faucets slightly (just at a drip) to prevent freezing.

  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, check them regularly, and replace batteries at least annually.

  • Never leave sources of heat or fire unattended.

  • Always use the correct fuel for the respective heating device.

  • Know where the main water shut-off valve is located; heat rooms with plumbing fixtures; insulate pipes in unheated parts of the house; close meter box lids to prevent from freezing; remove hoses from faucets; drain underground irrigation systems.

  • Indoors, if no other options are available temporarily run a trickle of water from the highest faucet. This trickle should be a steady stream the size of the lead in a pencil.

  • Never thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame. Use a hair dryer, vacuum cleaner exhaust, heat lamp, light bulb or electric heater.

Roof and Snow

As snow melts, it is important to ensure rooftop drains and downspouts are clear of ice or other obstructions and functioning.

All roofs have a designed snow load and if you are unsure about how much snow your roof can hold, contact a professional.

There are several ways to remove snow from your roof. But before attempting, please keep these safety tips from King County in mind:

  • Removing snow from your roof with a shovel can trigger unexpected snow slides causing crushing/suffocating injuries or death. Keep people and animals away from potential slide zones.

  • It is strongly recommend you not access your roof to clear snow. Climbing on a roof increases the load already stressed by the heavy snow load. The use of ladders when removing snow from your roof can pose additional hazards.

  • Consider hiring experts who have experience and specialized equipment for safely clearing snow or ice.

  • Clear any accumulation of snow around side wall vents that connect to household appliances, such as a clothes dryer.

The ultimate goal is not to remove all visible snow and ice, but rather just enough to relieve the excessive load on the roof.

Vehicles

  • Check that your vehicle is in good condition before bad weather hits. Check the battery, anti-freeze, tires, wiper fluid and wiper blades.

  • Keep warm clothing in your vehicle, as well as extra food and water, blankets and medications.

  • Add seasonal emergency equipment to your regular roadside emergency kit. Include sand/rock salt/kitty litter, an ice scraper, flashlight and small shovel.
    Avoid driving during heavy snowfall or ice storms when possible.

  • Don’t abandon your vehicle in the road if you experience inclement weather. If you must leave your car, pull as far off the road as safely possible.

  • Make sure the fuel tank is at least half full.

  • Don’t leave your car running unattended, even for a brief period of time, and never warm it in an enclosed area.

Walking

  • Dress in layers. Many thin layers are better than one thick piece of material.

  • Wear appropriate and warm foot gear. Waterproof boots with non-skid soles are best.

  • Choose bright clothing or reflective gear to be visible to motorists.

  • Always walk the sidewalk.

  • Ensure that vehicles come to a complete stop before moving towards or around them.


Preparedness information adapted from ready.gov/winter-weather.

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