Virginia Tech®home

After a Winter Storm

Image of a home in snow with a number three to show what to do after a winter storm

Monitor conditions

  • Refer to the University Status Page often for university operational updates.
  • Call the Virginia Tech inclement Weather Hotline 540-231-6668.
  • Check the National Weather Service for weather watches, warnings, and advisories for Virginia.
  • Check current local weather conditions and forecasts.
  • For the latest Virginia road conditions, call 5-1-1 from any telephone in Virginia (Virginia Department of Transportation).

Returning to normalcy after a severe winter storm

Recognize that recovering from a disaster will take time and effort. It is usually a gradual process. Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being. Stay indoors, if possible. Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. If your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold, go to a designated public shelter. Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog.

Before tackling strenuous tasks, consider your physical condition, the weather factors, and the difficulty of the task.

Help people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children. Check on your animals and make sure that their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles. If possible, bring them indoors.

Be careful with alternative sources of energy for heat or cooking, including space heaters. The primary hazards to avoid are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel.
  • Follow these power outage guides.

Let your family and friends know that you’re safe.

Cold related emergencies

Cold related emergencies, like frostbite and hypothermia, may quickly threaten life or limb. Strategies to prevent cold-related emergencies include:

  • Wear appropriate layers of clothing, a hat, and gloves. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body.
  • Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Don’t start an activity in, on, or around cold water unless you know you can get help quickly, if you need it.
  • Be aware of the wind chill, low temperatures and high winds.
  • Stay active to maintain body heat.
  • Take frequent breaks from the cold.
  • Get out of the cold immediately if the signals of hypothermia or frostbite appear.


Frostbite is the freezing of a specific body part such as fingers, toes, the nose or earlobes. Symptoms of frostbite include:

  • Lack of feeling in the affected area.
  • skin that appears waxy, is cold to the touch, or is discolored (flushed, white or gray, yellow, or blue).

What to do for frostbite:

  • Move the person to a warm place.
  • Handle the affected area gently; never rub it.
  • Warm gently by soaking the affected area in warm water (100–105 degrees F) until it appears red and feels warm.
  • Loosely bandage the area with dry, sterile dressings.
  • If the person’s fingers or toes are frostbitten, place dry, sterile gauze between them to keep them separated.
  • Avoid breaking any blisters.
  • Do not allow the affected area to refreeze.
  • Seek professional medical care as soon as possible.


Hypothermia is another cold-related emergency. Hypothermia may quickly become life threatening due to the failure of the body’s warming system. The goals of first aid are to restore normal body temperature and to care for any conditions while waiting for EMS personnel. Signals of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering, numbness, glassy stare.
  • Apathy, weakness, impaired judgment.
  • Loss of consciousness.

What to do for hypothermia:

  • CALL 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Gently move the person to a warm place.
  • Monitor breathing and circulation.
  • Give rescue breathing and CPR if needed.
  • Remove any wet clothing and dry the person.
  • Warm the person slowly by wrapping in blankets or by putting dry clothing on the person. Hot water bottles and chemical hot packs may be used when first wrapped in a towel or blanket before applying. Do not warm the person too quickly, such as by immersing him or her in warm water. Rapid warming may cause dangerous heart arrhythmias. Warm the core first (trunk and abdomen), not the extremities (hands and feet). This is important to mention because most people will try to warm hands and feet first and that can cause shock.

For more information on severe winter storms, see: