District Snow Team

-A +A
Bookmark and Share

Useful Information

Preparing for the snow season will help you and your family through the winter. Keep reading for tips on:

  1. Terms You Should Know and Understand
  2. Supplies You Should Have Before the Storm
  3. CDC and HSEMA Preparedness Recommendations
  4. Drive and Park Safely During Winter Storms
  5. Media Sites for Weather and Emergency Information
  6. For Further Information, Contact
  7. For Power Outages
  8. To Have Trees and Debris Removed
  9. If You See a Homeless Person Who May Be Impacted by Extreme Temperatures
  10. To Locate a Towed Vehicle

Terms you should know and understand:

  • Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.
  • Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain, or heavy sleet. Winter Storm Watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a Winter Storm.
  • Winter Storm Outlook: Issued prior to a Winter Storm Watch. The Outlook is given when forecasters believe winter storm conditions are possible and are usually issued 3 to 5 days in advance of a winter storm.
  • Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below ¼ mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.
  • Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.
  • Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure, and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.
  • Dense Fog Advisory: Issued when fog will reduce visibility to ¼ mile or less over a widespread area.
  • Snow Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations. No accumulation or light dusting is all that is expected.
  • Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.
  • Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant. Snow squalls are best known in the Great Lakes region.
  • Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility and causes significant drifting. Blowing snow may be snow that is falling and/or loose snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
  • Sleet: Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists. 
  • Freezing Rain: Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing. This causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as trees, cars, and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.

Supplies you should have before the storm:

  • NOAA Weather Radio or battery-powered or hand-crank radio to receive weather reports and emergency information.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Extra food and water. High-energy food, such as dried fruit or candy, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration are best.
  • Special supplies (such as medications) for seniors, family members with disabilities, infants, young children and pets.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • Emergency heating source, such as a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.
  • At least a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day). Store in sealed, unbreakable containers.
  • A three-to-five-day supply of non-perishable canned food and a non-electric can opener.
  • Working fire extinguisher and smoke detector.
  • Change batteries in all your equipment at least once a year. An easy way to remember is to do it when you turn your clocks back in the fall.
  • Have rock salt to melt ice on walkways.
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.

Tips to Prevent Cold Related Illness

The best way to prevent hypothermia and frostbite is to stay inside. If you must go outside, here are some tips to stay warm and frostbite-free. Cold Related Illness Prevention [pdf]

CDC and HSEMA preparedness recommendations:

Drive and park safely during winter storms:

Media sites for weather and emergency information:

For further information, contact:

For power outages:

  • Call Pepco's 24-Hour Outage Report Line at 1 (877) 737-2662.
  • For downed wires call Pepco immediately at (877) 737-2662 and press two (2).

To have trees or debris removed:

  • Call the Mayor's Citywide Call Center at 311

If you see a homeless person who may be impacted by extreme temperatures:

  • Call the Hypothermia Hotline at 1 (800) 535-7252

To locate a towed vehicle:

  • Call (202) 541-6083

Here are the latest emergency, weather, traffic, and utility alerts for the National Capital Region:


  • To receive important TXT messages about the latest information on weather, traffic, closings and more, sign up for ALERT DC at We work around the clock to keep you informed!

Be sure to check your community listservs as well!