Part of bracing for the cold season is being familiar with the common weather-related winter terms.

As you shake, shiver, slip and slide through the winter months, reduce your exposure to cold-weather hazards by learning common weather terms and preparing ahead of possible storms or other emergencies.

“There’s a reason the National Weather Service describes winter storms as ‘deceptive killers.’ The severe weather doesn’t directly cause injury and death, but it can cause accidents on icy roads or hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold,” said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist. “Knowing ahead of time what to expect can cut your risk of exposure to many cold-weather hazards.”

Start by becoming familiar with common weather-related terms such as winter storm watch, winter storm warning, blizzard, sleet and freezing rain, Brown said.

Winter storm watches signal storms are possible locally, while winter storm warnings mean storms are occurring or will soon occur.

Meanwhile, freezing rain is rain that freezes when it hits the ground. By contrast, sleet is rain that is frozen before it hits the ground. Both can cause slippery roads and walkways. A blizzard warning means sustained or frequent winds of 35 miles per hour or more with lots of falling or blowing snow expected for three or more hours.

In addition to learning key terms, use today’s technology to your advantage by downloading to your phone or tablet helpful weather apps for up-to-date forecasts and alerts. Other apps, such as those offered by FEMA and the American Red Cross, provide information on shelters, first aid and assistance with recovery.

In the event a storm does hit, make sure you are prepared with enough supplies, food, water and shelter for at least five days. Do not forget to include pets and other animals in your preparations.

“Do you have rock salt, sand and a shovel or other snow removal equipment?” Brown said. “Check to be sure there’s sufficient heating fuel, and be ready to layer on hats, gloves and scarves for warmth if the power goes out and there is no heat.”

Finally, Brown advised families to have a communications plan.

“Know the emergency plans at public schools and where you work,” she said. “Each family member also should be familiar with what to do if a storm hits when they home alone.”

For more information on preparing for winter weather, contact your local Extension office and visit