SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – After a winter storm in February 2021 killed more than two dozen people experts warned extreme weather events will become more common and we have to adapt. Many things can go wrong when sudden winter storms hit, from damage to vehicles and homes to health and pet safety concerns, but there are several things you can do before and during the event to make things easier.

Dogs frolic in the accumulated snow (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Section: Pets / Health / Home / Ice Safety / Winter Driving / Preparation

Pet Safety

Road salt is commonly made of substances that can harm your pet’s feet and cause digestive upset. Sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride are all common ingredients for ice melt. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, eating them can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs with sensitive paws can struggle with salt causing their paw pads to crack or bleed.

If you walk your pets or salt your patio, you can wipe their feet when they come back inside so they don’t need to lick them clean. Not allowing your pets to eat snow with salting chemicals can keep them from digesting large amounts of chemicals. Pets with paw damage can have relief with paw wax or doggie booties.

There are more pet-friendly types of ice melt containing urea or magnesium chloride, but they can still cause stomach upset. Be sure to call and check your local pet store to see if they have any in stock if it’s a concern.

Pets can get frostbite too, even winter-loving breeds. The American Kennel Club says even if they are a cold-weather breed and have a thick underlayer in their coat, it doesn’t mean they are immune to the temperature. Dogs also have to acclimate to different environments and drastic changes, just like we do.

Keeping them dry before walks, making walking times shorter, and booties or sweaters can help, particularly with smaller or short-haired breeds. If their skin shows blisters, looks pale blue, grey, or swollen, don’t rub or use a hairdryer/heating pad on the damaged skin. It will cause more damage. Move them to a warm area and call your vet.

Pedestrians cross a street during heavy snowfall (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

Section: Pets / Health / Home / Ice Safety / Winter Driving / Preparation


When you breathe in cold air, sometimes it can give you the sensation of burning in your lungs. Cold air is dry, which affects the process of heat and water exchange when you inhale and dries out your sinus cavity.

Most people adjust quickly, but it can trigger conditions such as asthma. Dr. William O. Roberts, a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, suggests wearing a scarf or other clothing to cover your face to warm the air before inhaling it.

Frostbite happens when skin or underlying tissues freeze. The longer the exposure to cold and wind, the more serious it can become. It can still occur when wearing gloves.

Early stages of frostbite are uncomfortable but may not necessarily cause permanent damage to the skin. However, severe frostbite can require hospitalization and cause serious injury.

The Mayo Clinic says light frostbite, or frostnip, can be treated by rewarming. You may be tempted, but running them under warm or hot water can burn them due to the temperature difference. Instead, try holding them in your armpits.

According to their guide, the early stages include cold skin and a prickling feeling. As the damage progresses, the skin will redden, turn grayish-yellow, become purple, and deepen to a brown or ashen color. The skin becomes hard and waxy in appearance.

Someone with frostbite may become clumsy from joint and muscle stiffness. Frostbitten skin can blister while rewarming. The clinic says to seek medical attention if there is increased pain, swelling, discharge from the frostbitten area, or fever.

Becoming too cold can eventually lead to hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition where the body loses heat faster than it can make it. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek emergency medical assistance if you’re suffering from intense shivering, slurred speech, and drowsiness or loss of coordination. It’s helpful to keep the person wrapped in warm blankets until help arrives. Remove any wet clothing and protect them from the cold.

If you’re exercising in the cold the University of Rochester Medical Center says it’s best to wear a polypropylene or other man-made fabric to wick moisture away from your skin underneath a knit middle layer that can be taken off if you get too warm. An outer layer of a man-made fabric works best, they say. Be careful about sweating in your coat because your clothes can get cold quickly once you aren’t active anymore.

When it’s cold, the air is drier, and static shocks become more common. You may receive a zap if you’re touching a metal surface like a doorknob or car. Although it’s not dangerous, it can hurt. You can do a few things to reduce the likelihood of getting shocked.

AccuWeather suggests wearing rubber-soled or leather shoes to insulate your body. Using a humidifier to counteract the dry air can reduce how much static charge we build up. They also suggest using dryer sheets in your laundry, which help prevent static shock. Continually touching metal objects minimizes the chance of static shock by regularly grounding built-up charges.

Don’t leave your gas oven running, even if the heat is out! According to the CDC, at least 430 people die in the U.S. every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. This happens more frequently in the winter when people use space heaters and gas ovens to heat their homes.

Juan De La Cruz works on a water pipe break after a fierce and deadly winter storm that wreaked havoc in the southern and central US (Photo by THOMAS SHEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Section: Pets / Health / Home / Ice Safety / Winter Driving / Preparation

Protecting Your Home

Plumbing is vulnerable to freezing over as the temperatures drop below 20 degrees, but you can take measures to prevent it with some simple steps. Although pipes don’t burst immediately, it’s still a pain if they freeze.

SWEPCO says running a constant trickle of water from your faucet can prevent it from freezing. Since both the hot and cold are susceptible, running a small stream from both is a good idea. Areas like attics, garages, basements, and crawl spaces are more exposed to freezing temperatures, so extra insulation can help protect them. Opening your cabinets lets the ambient temperature of your house keep the plumbing warmer as well.

Keeping your energy bills low is difficult when it’s cold outside. SWEPCO suggests opening curtains on the sunny side of a home to warm it and keeping the shades drawn when there’s no sun. That keeps more warm air trapped inside the house.

Weather strips around doors can also prevent cold air from entering a home. They suggest residents keep the thermostat as low as is comfortable to save energy.

Windows can be insulated cheaply with shrink film, allowing in the light while blocking the cold. Stores sell pre-made kits to make installation easier. The thicker the film, the more cold air it keeps out. Clean the window thoroughly with window cleaner, lay the film against the clean glass, and use a squeegee to smooth it flat.

If you’re in a pinch and can’t get a kit, saran wrap and double-sided tape will work short-term. Just be careful to keep the window frames dry to protect them from moisture damage.

Two boys fall on the ice while ice skating at the ice rink (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Section: Pets / Health / Home / Ice Safety / Winter Driving / Preparation

Safety on the Ice

Falling on the ice is painful, but there are ways to help you keep your balance and protect yourself from falls.

Move slower when walking, especially when entering and exiting vehicles or stairs. Taking short steps, bending slightly forward, and walking flat-footed will keep you on more sturdy footing, even if you look a little like a penguin doing it. Keep your center of gravity over your support leg for better balance and your hands out of your pockets. A popular saying is, “Don’t push your luck; walk like a duck.”

The University of Chicago Medicine created a helpful video on how to fall safely. People can break their arms or wrists if they throw their arms out to stop a fall. Bending your back and head forward can help avoid hitting your head on the ground. U.C. suggests bending your knees slightly, crouching a little, and rolling to the side. This will put the point of contact on your thigh, hip, and shoulder.

Shoes with rubber treads hold traction the best. Plastic soles slip out from underneath you easily.

Neighbors help George Tietze and his wife Stacey Tietze after their car was stuck in an un-plowed road following a blizzard (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Section: Pets / Health / Home / Ice Safety / Winter Driving / Preparation

Winter Driving

If you can’t get road salt to keep in your car, kitty litter can be used to help you gain traction when you’re stuck on the ice. It won’t melt the ice but will help prevent cars and pedestrians from slipping on slick driveways and sidewalks. Sand also provides better traction on icy surfaces.

Black ice is transparent, and drivers often can’t see it until they’re already on it. It usually forms overnight when the temperatures drop. The beginning and end of bridges can ice over quickly because of pooling water exposed to the cold air.

Drive slower. If you lose traction, do not slam on the brakes. Ease off the accelerator and keep your steering wheel fixed in the position it’s in. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service says if the front end of your car begins turning left or right, gently turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction. If it’s the back end of your car sliding, very gently turn the wheel in the same direction.

Small animals may take shelter inside a car when it’s cold outside. Making noise by slapping the hood can scare them away safely before you turn on the engine. The Pet Health Network also suggests honking the horn to wake up any cats under or in your engine.

Giving your car time to warm up before you need to leave can make your drive more comfortable and defrost the windows.

Keeping an ice scraper in the car is a good idea when the windows frost or ice over. This will save you time when you need to leave. You can cover the windshield with a tarp or towel to help. Drivers can also put their wipers up to keep them from freezing to the windshield. Be sure to clean off any snow or ice on top of your car before you leave; it can slip off as it begins to melt and cause accidents when it slides off. AAA warns drivers never to pour hot water on a frozen windshield as it can crack or shatter the glass.

If your door handles are frozen and you don’t have a de-icer, rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle will unfreeze them quickly.

TOPSHOT – Signs reading “Out of Service” are seen inside the washing machines of a laundromat in Queens borough of New York on March 30, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

Section: Pets / Health / Home / Ice Safety / Winter Driving / Preparation


Pack an emergency kit for driving in icy conditions, including warm socks, coats and blankets in case you get stuck somewhere and need to wait for a tow. Almanac also suggests including things like bottled water, hand warmers, flashlights and other things that may be helpful while you wait.

Keeping your car above half a tank can also help keep the heat running longer if you’re stranded and protect your vehicle from the cold.

In preparation for a significant winter storm, it can be helpful to take out some cash. Credit card machines and ATMs will not work if the power goes out.

Consumer Reports suggests keeping sleeping bags and blankets on hand in case of a loss of power. They say sleeping inside a tent inside the home can help keep people warmer when the temperatures drop at night.

When the power is out, there may be a boil notice. You can prepare by filling buckets, jars, and other containers with clean water to drink.

Section: Pets / Health / Home / Ice Safety / Winter Driving / Preparation