Winter Storms and Extreme Cold


While the danger from winter weather varies across the country, nearly all Americans, regardless of where they live, are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some point in their lives. Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and freezing rain.

Regardless of the severity of a winter storm, you should be prepared in order to remain safe during these events.

Below is information you need to know about propane safety and how to keep your family safe before and after winter storms. By taking a few simple propane-related safety precautions and discussing them with your family, you can reduce the potential for devastating property loss, personal injury, and even death.

BEFORE - Be prepared for a winter storm:

  • Make sure your propane tank, whether it is located above or below the ground, is marked properly by a flag, pole, or stake that is higher than the average snow cover depth for your location. This will increase the odds of it being seen by someone such as a snowplow operator, reducing the chances for a potentially fatal accident.
  • Have an adequate supply of propane in your tank. During and after a winter storm, roads leading to your home or farm might not be accessible for delivery. It is recommended that you establish a regular delivery schedule with your propane retailer.
  • Know how and where to shut off the outdoor propane supply and indoor propane appliances. For more information, contact your propane retailer.
  • MAKE SURE THAT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY KNOW WHAT PROPANE SMELLS LIKE. Propane has a strong, unpleasant smell like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal.
  • NEVER store or place a propane cylinder indoors or in an enclosed area such as a basement, garage, shed, or tent.
  • It is recommended that you consider installing a carbon monoxide (CO) detector listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) on every level of your home. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding installation, location, and maintenance.
  • Propane gas detectors provide an additional measure of security. It is recommended that you consider installing one or more propane gas detectors listed by UL. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding installation, location, and maintenance.
  • Have a list of instructions on how to turn off electricity, propane, and water. Review suggested preparations for weather hazards such as winter storms with your propane retailer as well as other utility suppliers. Advise them of any special needs you may have.
  • Create an emergency preparedness plan and review it regularly with your family in order to keep them safe during a potential disaster.

DURING - What to do if a winter storm approaches:

  • If a winter storm is predicted, listen to your local authorities, or television and radio stations, for instructions on the appropriate course of action to take. Although it is recommended to always have an adequate supply of propane in your tank, it is especially important during the winter months because in the event of a storm, roads leading to your home or farm might not be accessible for additional delivery.
  • Snow and ice can create serious problems for your home’s propane system by freezing and cracking pipes, regulators, valves, or other types of propane equipment.
  • Make sure to clear snow and ice away from all outdoor vents, chimneys, and flues, thereby reducing the potential for CO poisoning. Whenever possible, use a broom instead of a shovel in order to not damage your propane system components.
  • Clear snow and ice from around your propane tank. If the pipes freeze and crack, gas can pool in the snow, causing it to become an ignition source, creating a potentially dangerous situation.



AFTER - What to do after a winter storm:

  • Use caution in the area surrounding your home or farm. If you have any doubts about your safety, leave the area immediately and have your property inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before re-entering. Take the time to carefully evaluate the condition of all the structures on your property. If it is dark, use flashlights, not candles.
  • Look carefully around the entire area. Check for downed power lines; they can create major safety hazards. High winds or falling ice can move, shift, or damage gas lines and tanks. Immediately call your local utility company or propane retailer if any of these hazards exist.