In February 2021, a deadly winter storm brought snow, sleet, freezing rain, ice and several days of extreme cold temperatures affecting millions in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. Winter Storm Uri was a stark reminder of the harsh realities of severe weather, particularly for African American communities. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted that it was the coldest winter storm for Texas since December 1989. Because areas in these southern states are not accustomed to these long-lasting severe winter events, many residents did not know how to stay warm and safe during severe winter weather.  Impacts included frozen pipes, roadways that were either shutdown or impassible, wreaking havoc for first responders. Downed electrical systems left no electricity across large geographical areas that were experiencing sub-zero temperatures.

Through this year’s #WinterReady campaign, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is sharing valuable tips to help keep us safe.

Tony Robinson, FEMA Region 6 Administrator, highlights the urgency, “Winter weather can impact roads, schools, businesses, cause power outages and disrupt our daily routines. It can also cause serious health risks, so now is the time to be #WinterReady to help keep you and your families safe.”

General Winter Preparedness Tips

FEMA offers these tips to help everyone get through the winter safely:

  • Insulate Your Home: Install weather stripping and insulation, and insulate water lines along exterior walls.
  • Prepare Your Vehicle: Check your car’s readiness for winter and keep an emergency kit onboard.
  • Stock Emergency Supplies: Include non-perishable food, water, flashlights, and a battery-powered radio.

Focusing on the Elderly: A Priority

As we prepare for the winter, it’s essential to remember that community involvement plays a crucial role. Our elders are often the most vulnerable during harsh winter conditions.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects there will be more Americans over the age of 65 than under the age of 18 by 2035.

The bitter cold, power outages, and isolation can be more than just uncomfortable; they can be life-threatening. FEMA emphasizes the importance of preparing our senior citizens for winter’s challenges. Here are some crucial tips:

  • Ensure Access to Medications: Stock up on necessary medications and medical supplies.
  • Keep Warm Safely: Use safe heating sources and avoid using stoves or ovens as heat sources.
  • Stay Connected: Maintain regular contact with elderly neighbors, friends, and relatives.

Preparing for Power Outages

Winter storms can bring power outages that may disrupt things like communications, utilities, transportation, stores, gas stations and ATMs. They can also prevent your ability to use electrically powered medical devices so it’s important to be prepared for power outages.

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • If you use a generator, ONLY use it outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Make alternative plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
  • Go to a community location with power if cold is extreme and you can’t heat your home.

Let’s take the lessons from Winter Storm Uri to heart and be proactive in our preparations. Being #WinterReady is more than just a personal responsibility; it’s a community commitment to safeguarding each other against the cold blows of Mother Nature.

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