Here are some definitions and tips about winter weather. Call the Minnetonka Fire Department at 952.939.8598 if you have further questions.


A freeze/frost warning means below-freezing temperatures are expected and may cause significant damage to uncovered crops, plants, and trees.

A winter weather advisory means winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences, most likely to motorists. Use caution when outdoors, especially when traveling.

A winter storm watch means severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, are possible within the next day or two. Start preparing now!

A winter storm warning means severe winter conditions have started or are about to start. Stay indoors whenever possible!

A blizzard warning means snow and/or blowing snow, combined with strong winds and cold temperatures, are creating life-threatening conditions. Seek refuge immediately!

Being prepared

The key to surviving Minnesota’s variety of winter weather is preparedness. The following steps will help you be more prepared for winter weather.

At home

  • In urban areas, be sure you can survive at home for at least three days.
  • In rural areas, be sure you can survive for a week or two.
  • Stock emergency food and water (see creating a family disaster plan) Also have emergency cooking equipment in case of power failure or fuel loss.
  • Keep some kind of emergency heating equipment and fuel to make at least one room livable. The emergency heating equipment must have proper ventilation and comply with applicable building and fire codes.
  • Have a battery powered radio with extra batteries to receive emergency information.
  • Have a flashlight or lantern with extra batteries or fuel.
  • Keep extra medicine and baby items on hand.
  • A UL-approved fire extinguisher, along with working smoke detectors, and first aid supplies should be available.
  • Move outdoor animals to sheltered areas with extra food and water available.

In your vehicle

  • Have your vehicle fully checked and winterized before the winter season begins.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel. If you are forced to use your vehicle, make sure it is in good condition and equipped with good snow tires or chains. Bring another person with you if possible.
  • Keep a full tank of gas.
  • Have emergency supplies in your vehicle, including a shovel, container of sand, windshield scraper, tow chain or rope, a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, blankets or sleeping bags, heavy gloves, boots, non-perishable food and water, as well as hand, face and head gear.
  • Travel by day and use only major highways if possible.
  • Let someone know of your timetable, primary and alternate routes. Keep the radio tuned for weather and emergency information.
  • If caught in a blizzard, seek refuge immediately.
  • Keep calm if you get into trouble. Show trouble signals such as raising the hood (after the snow stops falling), tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your radio antenna or door, and activate your hazard/emergency lights.
  • Turn on the dome light when running your engine at night. Unless there is a house or source of help in sight, stay in your vehicle until help arrives.
  • Run the engine for about ten minutes each hour for heat, keep a window open a little, and keep the tailpipe clear.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes.
  • Avoid over exertion.

Ice and snowmobile safety

Ice fishing and snowmobiling—are two favorite hobbies of Minnesotans during the long winter months, but they can also be dangerous. Each year about a dozen Minnesotans are killed and hundreds more injured in snowmobile accidents, while 65 percent of all drownings are ice related.

Many snowmobile accidents are drug or alcohol related, or involve excessive speeds, unfamiliar terrain, unfamiliarity with snowmobiles or “overdriving” snowmobile headlights.

Some safety tips provided by the Insurance Federation of Minnesota

  • Avoid alcohol when snowmobiling.
  • Don’t snowmobile on ice less than five inches thick.
  • Take a snowmobile course offered by the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Don’t walk on ice less than four inches thick.
  • Warn children to avoid ice-covered ponds and streams.
  • Don’t drive your car on ice less than eight inches thick.
  • Up to 70 percent of body heat is lost through the head—put on a hat.
  • As the number and value of snowmobiles, thefts and accidents rise, the cost of insurance also rises. Drive snowmobiles safely and responsibly to prevent accidents.
  • Avoid overexertion. Every winter many unnecessary deaths occur because people engage in more strenuous physical activity than they perform during other seasons. Cold weather alone puts extra strain on the heart. Someone who is unaccustomed to shoveling snow, pushing a vehicle, or even walking fast or far, may be at greater risk for a heart attack or stroke. Be aware of physical limitations and avoid over exertion.