Winter is coming - be prepared

  • Published
  • By L. Cunningham, 55th Wing Public Affairs

Winter weather is often unpredictable here in Nebraska. Storms can vary depending on precipitation, wind and temperatures and can produce sleet and ice, moderate to light snow or blizzards.

While the mission is always at the forefront of Offutt operations, the safety of Team Offutt and their families is a high priority.

Preparation is key. Keep up with local news weather advisories on TV or over the radio. Know the meaning of different weather terminology:

  • Winter storm watch: possible winter storm in your area.
  • Winter storm warning: winter storm occurring or soon occurring in your area.
  • Blizzard warnings: when winds or gusts of 35 mph or greater are expected, along with falling/blowing snow reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile.
  • Windchill index: the effect of the wind on temperature. In as little as 30 seconds, face and hands can become frostbitten. For more information click on the following link:

Preparing your home and your vehicles for winter and the snow and ice that comes with it can help keep Team Offutt and their families safe.

Test carbon monoxide and smoke detectors inside the home and ensure batteries have an adequate charge. These detectors can save your life and protect your home. Maintain proper ventilation for heaters and operating heat sources safely.

In case of a power outage, it is a good practice to keep non-perishable ready-to-eat food and drinking water on hand in case the power is not restored quickly. Remember to wear layers of comfortable clothes, removing layers as needed to avoid overheating. Make sure to have a battery powered radio, a good supply of water, flashlights, and plenty of blankets.

Let’s not forget the care of outdoor pets. They will need to be brought inside the home when temperatures drop. Remember to have plenty of water and food available for your pets.

Prepare your vehicle for winter weather and ensure that it is in good mechanical condition. Have a mechanic check the car battery, exhaust system, heater, antifreeze levels, wiper blades and washer fluids, ignition system, brakes, defroster, oil levels, thermostat, lights and hazard lights, and tires.

Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in vehicles and have a minimum of a half-tank of gas in case of a winter storm accident. Remember to always wear seatbelts and ensure children are in a car safety seat.

It is also a good idea to build an emergency winter kit for your vehicle. Items could include additional warm clothing, blankets, mittens or gloves, extra socks, a candle and matches, water, an empty metal coffee can that may be used to melt snow if water is needed, non-perishable food, flashlights and extra batteries, a small snow shovel, and salt, sand or cat litter, which can help melt snow or add some traction to get moving when stuck in the snow.

Winter driving during or after a snowstorm or blizzard can become hazardous. Even vehicles with four-wheel drive can hit a patch of ice hidden underneath the snow, especially on bridges and in sheltered areas. Driving at reduced speeds allows distance to react to local traffic and gradually slow down when approaching stops, exits and curves.

If your vehicle skids off the road during a blizzard and you find yourself unable to drive out, it’s a good idea to stay in your vehicle. It’s recommended that you do not leave your vehicle unless help is visible within 100 yards. If you have a cell phone, call someone and give them as much information as possible about your location.

Sometimes getting the help needed is delayed due to the intensity of winter storms.

Display a trouble sign, such as raising hood of car or placing a bright colored cloth on the antenna of the vehicle. You can run the engine to keep warm for about 10 minutes each hour. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow by using the small shovel from your emergency winter kit. Remember to keep the interior light on when the engine is on and be sure to slightly crack the window when the vehicle is running to prevent carbon monoxide build up within the car.

If there is more than one person in the car, take turns sleeping and huddle together for warmth. You can do light exercises such as clapping your hands and moving your legs and arms to keep up your circulation.

Be prepared, learn where to find information on Offutt weather conditions and responses, and ensure your AtHoc notification information is current. Be familiar with base reporting procedures.

For year-round Nebraska traveler information 24-hours-a-day, motorists can dial 511 from their cell phones or landline. It provides current weather conditions, road conditions and travel advisories. The 511 system and other various weather links are available at or

If outside Nebraska, you can dial 1-800-906-9069.

If weather becomes extreme, base personnel may experience early release, delayed reporting or designated personnel reporting.

The 55th Wing Public Affairs office will send information to the local media to get out to the community. There is also the Snow and Information line at 232-COLD and Offutt’s Facebook and Twitter pages for storm updates and reporting status.

For more information about Offutt’s snow and information procedures visit