As people in northern Wisconsin are cleaning up and assessing damage following a round of severe weather that caused widespread damage and power outages over the weekend, the Department of Health Services (DHS) wants to remind all state residents that severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods, and other weather events can occur anywhere in the state. DHS has these tips to keep you and your family safe during and after severe weather.
Before a severe storm:
- Pay attention to weather forecasts and continue to monitor your local media or online weather services when severe weather is in the forecast. Remember, a watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather, while a warning means a storm is on its way.
- Share weather information with people who may not be aware of the watches or warnings. This is especially important for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or blind.
- When there is a severe storm in your area, it is important to find shelter as soon as you can.
After a severe storm:
- People can be injured after a storm while walking among damaged or destroyed buildings. Also, storms can damage power lines, gas lines, or electrical systems increasing the risk for fire, electrocution, or explosions.
- Continue to monitor the media for emergency information, including where to get help and areas to avoid.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves, and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris. Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning! Never use items powered by gasoline, propane, natural gas, or things like grills that burn charcoal, inside your home, garage, or camper, and avoid using them near open windows or near a vent. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
- Heavy rains from severe storms can cause flooding. Do not drive, walk, or swim in flood waters. Flood water can contain debris, chemicals, and germs, and just a few inches of water can sweep away a vehicle.
- Food safety becomes a concern when the power goes out, especially for long periods. In warm weather, foods will stay frozen for at least two days in a fully stocked freezer, and foods in your refrigerator will stay cold for at least four to six hours when the doors to the appliances are kept closed.
- Once power is restored, carefully inspect the items that were in your fridge and freezer. If you have any question about the safety of a food product, remember: When in doubt, throw it out.
A disaster of any kind can take its toll on emotional health. The Disaster Distress Helpline offers confidential emotional support to help people cope with the stress brought on by the storms and their aftermath. The Helpline number is 800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
While the weather in Wisconsin can change quickly and dramatically, families can prepare themselves in advance for all types of emergency situations by making a kit that contains items like food, water, flashlights, and batteries. Talking with family members about how to reach each other during an emergency is also important.