While less common than windstorms, snow events do occur in Island County. Some years, such as 2019, experienced abnormal conditions resulting in significant snowfall for the region including Camano and Whidbey islands. Winter storms often disrupt utility services, close local businesses and negatively impact road conditions.
Cold and below-freezing temperatures can occur without snowfall and can cause serious or even life-threatening health problems if an individual is exposed to the elements without proper clothing or shelter.
Winter Weather Preparedness
- Weatherproof your home. This can include using weather strips for doors and windows, installing thermal-pane window covers, repairing leaks in your roof, scheduling inspections for your fireplace and heater, etc.
- Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in your home.
- Know how to use and maintain your generator.
- Identify a backup power source for important medical equipment that requires electricity.
- Prepare your vehicle for winter weather, including a vehicle preparedness kit.
- Monitor the weather in your area for potential winter weather events and storms.
- Be ready to shelter in your home for several days. Road conditions may not be safe to travel on except for emergencies.
- Never bring in a gas stove to heat your home.
- Never use a generator indoors or in a garage or carport.
- Never use a propane or charcoal grill for heating your home or for cooking indoors.
- Monitor vulnerable populations for signs of hypothermia and frostbite (Vulnerable populations include infants, older adults, and individuals with underlying health conditions).
Winter Vehicle Preparedness
Have an emergency plan and supplies in the event of inclement winter weather or if you are planning to travel across mountain passes. Make sure to have the following items in your vehicle kit:
- Cell phone, charger, external battery charger
- Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Warm clothing including hats, coats, blankets, etc.
- Windshield scraper
- Food and water
- First-aid kit
- Tire chains (and know how to put them on your vehicle)
- Tire repair kit
- Sand or cat litter (for traction)
- Jumper cables
- Reflectors, flares, flags
- Physical road maps
If you must drive during a storm, take the following precautions:
- Slow down. Even if the roads just look wet they could still be slick. More than 5,000 fatalities occur on the roadways each year due to weather conditions.
- Make sure your vehicle is completely clear of ice or snow before starting the trip. Flying snow from cars causes accidents.
- Let someone know where you are going and what route you will take. If something happens, this person will know where to start a search.
- Don't leave the house without the following a fully charged mobile phone, car charger and an emergency supplies kit in your car.
- If you are driving and begin to skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas and turn your wheels in the direction you want the front of the car to go. If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump the brakes on an ABS equipped vehicle.
- If you are having trouble seeing due to weather conditions, pull over to the side of the road and stop your car until visibility improves. Turn off your lights and use your parking break when stopped so that another car won't mistakenly follow your tail/brake lights and end up hitting you.
If your car gets stuck during a storm:
- Stay in the vehicle
- If you leave your vehicle, you will become disoriented quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
- Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
- While running the motor, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning.
- Be visible to rescuers.
- Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine.
- Tie a bright colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.
- After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.