Preparing for a Winter Storm

Heavy snow, extreme cold, ice, and wind routinely affect Leelanau County during the winter and pose dangers to life and damage to property, however, Leelanau County residents must remember that it does not necessarily take record-breaking low temperatures or mountains of snow to make winter in Leelanau County dangerous. The abrupt changes in winter weather are enough to turn enjoyment of the seasons into tragedy. Listed below are a few helpful tips.


  • Keep a battery-powered radio handy.
  • Have flashlights, extra food, bottled water, extra blankets, and heavy clothes available.
  • Be aware of potential fire and carbon monoxide hazards if you plan to use alternate heating sources such as a fireplace, wood stove or space heater.
  • Carefully follow manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions.
  • Keep combustible materials away from your heating sources and look for the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) safety listing.
  • Homes heated with wood, should have their chimneys inspected annually for proper functioning.
  • Ensure you have extra water for drinking, cleaning, and other water needs.
  • Assure you have pet supplies.


Winterizing your car could save your life in a snowstorm. Ensure you have the proper mixture of antifreeze and water in the cooling system, top off the windshield washer solution, and check the tire treads. You may want to have a mechanic check the belts, hoses, tires, battery, and coolant. Try to keep your gas tanks full as low levels can cause condensation to form, degrading fuel quality and possibly causing the fuel lines to freeze. Listen to upcoming weather reports before heading out onto the roadways. If the weather is bad or forecasted to become bad, drive only if necessary. Tell someone of your destination and timeline. If you have a cell phone, ensure it is fully charged. Many cell phones have adaptors for charging off the car battery.

Assemble a winter vehicle kit that includes some basic supplies like:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • First-aid kit with a manual.
  • Extra blankets and extra clothing
  • Booster / jumper cables.
  • A shovel, box of sand or other gripping material.
  • Snacks and drinking water.
  • Windshield scraper.
  • Flares.
  • Tire repair kit, spare tire.
  • Tow strap, chain, or rope.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Cell phone and a phone book.

If you become stuck or caught in a snow or ice storm, stay in your car. Don’t leave unless you can see a building close by where you can take shelter. Be careful because distances can be distorted in the snow.

  • Display a sign that you are in trouble. 
  • Turn on your flashers or tie a bright cloth to your antenna. 
  • Open a window slightly to prevent freezing rain and snow from sealing you in your car. 
  • Make sure open windows face away from the blowing winds. Keep your exhaust system free of snow buildup. 
  • Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour and run the heater, again. 
  • Assure that the exhaust pipe is clear to prevent accidental carbon monoxide buildup. 
  • If there are other passengers, huddle together for warmth and use coats as blankets. 
  • Exercise by clapping your hands, moving your arms, legs, fingers, and toes. 
  • Do not consume alcohol as it decreases your body heat. 
  • Alert 9-1-1 as soon as possible. 
  • If you have On Star and you are unable to connect with 9-1-1, try On-Star.


  • Avoid over-exertion, such as shoveling snow, pushing cars or walking in deep snow.
  • Wear loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing in layers. Wear wool hat and mittens.
  • Keep clothing dry. Change wet socks and clothing quickly to prevent loss of body heat.
  • Sweating could lead to chill and hyperthermia and abnormally low body temperatures.
  • Walk carefully on snow and ice and ensure safe footing to avoid slipping / falls.
  • Understand the hazards of wind chill.


Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by tissue being frozen.
Mild frostbite affects the outer skin and appears as a blanching or whitening of the skin. Usually, these symptoms disappear as warming occurs, but the skin may appear red for several hours. Do not rub to rewarm.
In severe cases, the frostbitten skin will appear waxy looking with a white, grayish-yellow or grayish-blue color. The affected part(s) will have no feeling (numbness) and blisters may appear. The tissue will feel frozen or wooden. This indicates a very serious condition. Other symptoms that indicate frostbite are swelling, itching, burning, and deep pain as the area is warmed.
Frostbite is common on the nose, fingers, toes, and ear lobes.
Frostbite will vary in severity depending on the length of exposure, temperature, wind speed, and other factors.
Victims of severe frostbite must receive prompt medical attention.


Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops to 95 degrees or lower. It can develop whenever body heat loss exceeds heat gain. It is not exclusive to winter. Hypothermia is often mistaken for fatigue, irritability, or dehydration and may include some of these signs: abnormal decision making, improper response to cold, apathy, lethargy, decreased cooperation, slurred speech, disorientation, uncontrollable shivering, incoherence, drowsiness, memory loss, stumbling, and stiffness progressing to inability to move. Seek medical attention immediately.


Before the outage, check flashlights and battery-powered portable radios to ensure that are working, and you have extra / spare batteries. A radio is an important source for obtaining weather and emergency information during a storm. Most often, advisories, warnings, and weather updates can be heard on WTCM, as they are the primary LP1 source for the greater Leelanau County area.

  • Have sufficient heating fuel, as regular sources may be cut off, Have emergency heating equipment and fuel (a gas fireplace, wood stove or fireplace) so you can keep at least one room livable. Be sure the room is well ventilated.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to keep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows / doors or cover them with plastic from the inside to provide insulation.
  • To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or other materials and keep them dry.
  • Have water to be used for flushing a toilet. This water can be stored in buckets.
  • Check with your pharmacist for guidance on proper storage of your refrigerated medication during extended outages.
  • Review the process for manually operating an electric garage door.
  • Be extra cautious when you go outside to inspect for damages after a storm. Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by snowdrifts, trees or debris and could be live. Never attempt to touch or move a downed line. Keep children and pets away from them.
  • Check with and help your neighbors.
  • Stay off the roadways so plow trucks can clear them safely.
  • Report downed lines to your electrical service provider (Cherryland or Consumers).
This page last updated on 4/30/2014.