Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

Prepare Now, Survive During, Recover After

Winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. They can include extreme cold temperatures, freezing rain, snow, ice, and high winds for a few hours to several days.

Be Prepared Now

If You Are Under a Winter Storm Warning: Find Shelter Right Away. Stay off roads. Stay indoors and dress warmly. Prepare for power outages.  Check on neighbors. Use generators outside only. Listen for emergency information and alerts. Look for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Prepare for potential loss of heat, power, and communications (phone and radio). Charge up your phone, gather extra blankets and flashlights. Know who to contact and how to reach them if you lose power for more than a few hours.
  • Add weather stripping or rags to keep cold air out around doors and windows.
  • Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
  • Have important numbers saved in your cell phone, such as the utility company if someone in the home is dependent on electricity.
  • If you drive:
    • Keep your gas tank at least half-full.
    • Make sure the window wiper fluid is made for below 0 temperatures, and is full.
    • Avoid driving during a “snow squall,” quick intense bursts of snow and strong winds causing very low visibility that typically occur 30-60 minutes during the day. If you must drive during this time, reduce speed and use low beam headlights.

Survive During

  • Report snow or ice-related issues on campus 24/7 at (312) 355-7669.
  • Check on friends, family, and neighbors. Call 311 for a well-being check on elderly individuals who live alone in Chicago.
  • Keep pipes from freezing by allowing faucets to trickle water, especially those faucets near the exterior of the building. Trickle water or slowly drip water during the night when it’s colder. Open doors and cabinets to allow heated air in the home to reach cold pipes.
  • Check transportation options before you leave:
    • For the status of the Intercampus Route bus. Go to: transloc.com, call (312) 996-2842, or email rides@uic.edu.
    • For Night Ride, go to: uic.edu/nightride or call (312) 996-6800.
    • For Paratransit service for those with disabilities, call (312) 996-2842.
  • Stay off roads if possible. If you must go out:
    • Dress warmly and in brightly-colored clothing (hat, gloves, scarf, boots). Cover your head and mouth to keep in heat and protect your lungs.
    • Fully charge your cellphone before leaving, and let friends/family know where you are going.
    • Request motorist assistance offered through UIC Parking by calling (312) 355-0555.
    • If the car slides, ease off the gas pedal or brakes. Steer into the direction of the skid until you regain traction, then slowly straighten the vehicle.
    • In an accident or car issue, turn on the hazard lights and pull as far off the road as possible to avoid being hit by passing vehicles.
    • If trapped in your car, stay inside and call for help. It’s easy to become lost walking in a snowstorm.
      • Clear snow away from the exhaust pipe and slightly open a window for fresh air.
      • In the dark, turn on interior lights to make it easier for rescuers to find you.
    • Look for signs of hypothermia and frostbite:
      • Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes. For numbness, white or gray-yellow skin, or firm or waxy skin, soak in warm water but avoid using a heating pad to warm up.
      • Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature below 95 degrees. For shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, or drowsiness, warm the center of the body first, keep dry, wrap in warm blankets especially the head and neck.
    • If experiencing hypothermia or frostbite, take action immediately. Hypothermia is a medical emergency.
      • Remove wet clothing. Warm affected areas using body heat, clothing, and blankets.
      • Take warm drinks but not alcoholic drinks.
      • Take a temperature and if below 95°F seek medical attention immediately.
    • During a power loss:
      • Report 24/7 building access requests and facilities emergencies such as utility interruptions to Facilities Customer Support at (312) 996-7511.
      • Close off rooms you don’t need. Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
      • Avoid unnecessarily opening doors, windows, and refrigerator/freezer doors.
      • Use flashlights instead of candles in a power loss.
      • Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to avoid a spike when the power returns. Leave on one light so you know when power returns.
      • Close draperies or cover windows with blankets at night to further keep heat in your home.
      • When sitting for longer periods, move arms and legs to improve circulation and stay warmer.
      • Consider contacting family or friends to stay with them. Once safe, report a ComEd outage at (800) 334-7661 and check the outage map at: comed.com
    • If no other water is available, snow can be melted for water by boiling the water for 1 minutes; boiling water won’t remove any chemicals or dirt in snow. Avoid eating snow without heating it; that lowers your body temperature to make you cold.
    • Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages which cause your body to lose heat faster. Drink warm, sweet beverages or broth instead.
    • Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Generator exhaust is toxic.
    • Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
    • When using a portable heater:
      • Place it at least 3 feet from paper, drapes/cloth, bedding, and clothing.
      • Turn it off before leaving your home.
      • Don’t dry clothing (mittens/gloves, socks) using a space heater.
      • Check the cord and outlet for overheating, turning it off if hot.

Recover After

  • Throw away food that has not been refrigerated properly due to a power outage, and those with unusual smell, color, or texture. Unsafe food can make you sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal. A full freezer can hold a safe temperature for 24-48 hours if the door remains closed.
  • Check city notices and official news for boil orders or related information on drinking tap water.
  • Learn about refrigerated food and power outages: when to save it and when to throw it out. Your refrigerator will keep food safe for up to 4 hours during a power outage. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers after 4 hours without power.
  • After a power outage, never taste food to determine its safety. You will have to evaluate each item separately—use the chart as a guide: gov/food-safety-charts. When in doubt: Throw it out.