Winter Weather: Staying Ahead of the Forecast

Published on October 10, 2019
Last modified on October 22, 2021
Winter Weather Safety

Depending upon where you live or work, winter weather can be more than an inconvenience. Freezing temperatures, snow and ice build up, and severe storms or blizzards can wreak havoc upon property — both homes and businesses. Even in areas not traditionally impacted by winter conditions, it’s best to be prepared for the worst by staying ahead of the forecast. 

We offer several tips here.


Maintain Your HVAC/Furnace Unit

Make sure your furnace/heating system is ready for cold weather. Change filters, clean air ducts, and test the thermostat periodically. A malfunctioning heating unit means lower temperatures inside your home or business, which could lead to frozen pipes.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Burst pipes are the most common cause of property damage during winter. To avoid, wrap pipes with insulation in spots most vulnerable to freezing (exterior walls, attics, unheated basements, etc.) On extremely cold days, keep the water flowing by allowing a few faucets to drip. Thermostats should be maintained at a minimum of 55° F when the dwelling is unoccupied. You might also consider installing a monitoring system that sends notifications when internal temperatures fall to a certain point or shuts off water automatically when abnormal water pressure is detected.

Avoid Ice Dams

When snow packs into gutters and melted runoff has nowhere to go, ice dams can form around the edges of a property’s roof, causing serious damage by tearing off gutters or starting leaks. If possible, install and turn on heated cables around the edge of the roof before a snowstorm hits. If you have a long enough roof rake, use it to pull the snow to the ground.


Get the Right Tools

  • Ice Melt – Rock salt or some form of ice melt is essential to keeping walk and driveways around your property safe.  Stock up on enough ice melt to last a few snowstorms.
  • Shovels/Snow Blower – After a heavy snowfall, you’ll need to “dig yourself out.” Make sure you have at least one functional shovel on hand for your home or as many as needed for your business. If applicable, ensure your snow blower is properly maintained and won’t break down when it’s needed most.

Secure the Perimeter

  • Check the Roof – Snow and ice bearing down onto a roof can be perilous if it takes on more weight than can be withstood. Evaluate the risk: estimate the fortitude of your roof so you know when to be concerned. A typical residential roof can withstand roughly 4 feet of fresh snow, 2 feet of packed snow, or 1 inch of ice.
  • Seal Cracks and Drafts – Take a walk around the perimeter of the building, inside and out. Seal cracks with caulking and add insulation where necessary. Apply weather stripping to doors and windows to prevent drafts and water from seeping in.
  • Trim Trees – Remove overhanging tree branches outside of your home or business. The weight of snow and ice can easily cause tree branches to break, so consider hiring a professional service well before the winter season. Clear any other debris such as leaves and sticks before the storm arrives.


In extreme conditions, it’s best to stay off the roads, but if you must drive:

  • Have your vehicle(s) inspected by a mechanic once a year, and do your own observation before the winter months.  Replace worn tires with new or snow tires and ensure they are properly inflated for more grip on slippery roads.
  • Clean off the car, headlights, and taillights to create more visibility and reduce the possibility of accidents.
  • Keep winter supplies such as an ice scraper and shovel in cars. Fill the windshield washer fluid tank with a de-icer or all-weather mixture.
  • Slow down and maintain a sizable following distance. Make sure you’re familiar with breaking on ice.
  • Watch out for “black ice,” a transparent layer of ice that can fool a driver into thinking a road is safe.





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Disclaimer: The GUARD Wire is designed to provide general information about various topics of interest and should NOT replace the guidance, advice, or recommendations from licensed insurance or legal professionals, other industry experts, or state and federal authorities.