Winter Storm Survival Guide for Virginia

By Nancy B
December 21, 2022

Whether you're new to Virginia or lived here for some time, we have some super helpful information to help you prepare and protect your family during a major winter storm. 

How to Prepare for a Winter Storm in Virginia

What's the difference between a Winter Storm Watch and a Winter Storm Warning?



How to stay informed of winter weather in Virginia

Stay ahead of local weather, especially before you head out the door and get on the road. Track storms and make appropriate preparations for the worst-case scenario. 

The VDEM has great resources for your family when a major winter storm is approaching Virginia. They also have an active Facebook page you can follow.

National Weather Service for Virginia has social media communication channels in 4 regions:


National Weather Service for Virginia On Twitter     

Central Virginia: @WakefieldVA

Southwest Virginia: @NWBlacksburg

Northern Virginia @NWS_BaltWash

Tennesee: @NWSMorristown

West Virginia: @NWSCharlestonWV

National Weather Service for Virginia On Facebook

Central Virginia: @WakefieldVA

Southwest Virginia: @NWBlacksburg

Northern Virginia: @NWS_BaltWash

Tennesee: @NWSMorristown

West Virginia: @NWSCharlestonWV

Prepare a winter car kit

Prepare your car for winter weather with regular maintenance including antifreeze, battery and tire checks, windshield wiper, and fluid replacement. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you don't get stuck in an emergency and keep the fuel line from freezing. We have more travel safety tips!

Winter car kit ideas including blanket, cat litter, triangles, jumper cables, water, and jumper cables

Avoid travel during winter storms

Virginians do not have many opportunities to practice driving in snow and iceSo what's the safest way to drive in snow and ice, especially if you rarely do it? Stay home if you are able! While it's sometimes unavoidable, there is no truly safe way to drive in heavy snow or ice. Prepare to travel after a winter storm by checking with transportation sources for up-to-date travel information. 

Virginia Department of Transportation resources

The Virginia 511 Information System provides the latest traffic and road conditions by phone, website, and app.

The VDOT Safety Patrol provides free-of-charge services such as tire change assistance, fuel at the nearest gas station, jump starts, phone access, and directions.

Virginia State Police is active on Twitter: @VSPPIO and Facebook: @VirginiaStatePolice

Follow the Virginia Department of Transportation for local travel advisories on Twitter in your local area: 

Northern VA @VaDOTNOVA  

Staunton @VaDOTStaunton 

Culpepper @VaDOTCULP  

Richmond @VaDOTRVA

Bristol @VaDOTBristol

Salem @VaDOTSalem

HamptonRoads @VaDOTHR 

Lynchburg @VaDOTLynchburg 

Fredericksburg @VaDOTFRED


Follow the VDOT Facebook Page and join the following Facebook groups for local advisories:

We are right here and ready to help!

24/7 Northern Neck Insurance Claims Hotline

What to do if you get stranded in your car

  • Stay put, call, and wait for help. Do not leave unless help is visible within 100 yards.
  • Indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after the snow stops falling.
  • Run the engine intermittently to keep warm, about 10 minutes each hour (or 5 minutes every half hour).
  • Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a rear window for ventilation.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
  • Do light exercises for circulation (avoid staying in one position for too long).

Check Virginia airports for travel delays

Click the links for updated flight information.

Have a Family Plan for Virginia Winter Storm

  • Locate a homeless shelter if needed. Be prepared for COVID-19 questions and PPE.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing that will keep you warm.
  • Be prepared to evacuate if you lose power or heat and know your routes and destinations. Find a local emergency shelter at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Bring your animals inside and ensure that your horses and livestock have blankets if appropriate and unimpeded access to shelter, food, and non-frozen water.
  • Buy a battery-operated and hand-crank weather radio.
  • Build a VDEM-recommended emergency kit with extra batteries, food, water, prescriptions, etc. 
  • Locate copies of your insurance policy.
  • Have family and emergency contact information available.
  • Get extra cash. In a power outage, ATMs may not be working.
  • Have a home inventory.

How to keep your pets safe

  • Have extra pet food and water on hand plus any necessary medications.
  • Make sure your pets are current on their vaccinations.
  • Have a current picture on your phone.
  • Ensure your pet wears a collar with identification and keep a leash on hand.
  • Have properly sized pet carriers.
  • Have a place to take your pet – kennels, veterinary clinics, and the homes of friends and relatives are all places you can take your pet in an emergency.
  • Find a pet-friendly motel if you need to evacuate.

How to Prepare Your Home for a Winter Storm

Home Heating Equipment Safety

Did you know heating equipment is the number one cause of home fires in the U.S.? The majority of those occur in December, January, and February and...
  • Forty-four percent of home fires are caused by space heaters every year.
  • Fireplaces and chimneys are the second most common cause of home fires.
  • Central heating units and water heaters make up the remaining home fires.

Follow these tips to protect your home from home-heating fires

  • Wood or coal-burning stoves and electric or kerosene heaters are heat safe when used correctly.
  • Stoves must be properly vented and in good working order. Dispose of ashes safely. Keep a supply of wood or coal on hand. 
  • Electric space heaters must be UL-certified. Plug a heater directly into the wall and avoid using an extension cord. Unplug it when it is not in use.  Use a kerosene heater only if permitted by law in your area; check with your local fire department.
  • Use only the correct fuel for your unit. Properly ventilate the area. Refuel the unit outdoors only, and only when the unit is cool. Follow all the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Maintain your fireplace/wood stove inspected annually. It should be properly vented and in good working order. Dispose of the ashes safely in a metal container and wait until cool to throw them away.

How to Stay Safe After a Winter Storm

How to take care of your home and community

After any severe storm, there could be damage, including downed trees on your property, power outages, broken glass, and more.

  • Check on elderly or disabled neighbors and relatives.
  • Remove snow and ice properly to prevent slips and falls around your home or business.
  • Clear your neighborhood fire hydrants.

  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
  • Inspect your home for damage and take pictures.
  • Be careful walking around damaged areas in your home.
  • If you have weather damage to your home, contact your independent agent or our 24/7 Claims Hotline at 877-968-7252.
  • Check our Storm Damage Claim FAQs for the first steps to take after damage to your property.

How to report a power outage

The best way to report and track a power outage in your area is online unless there is an electrical hazard. Electric utility companies get otherwise inundated with phone calls. Click on the links below to report an outage online and for information about electric utilities in your area. 

Snowplowing In Virginia

VDOT's clearance goals after a storm ends allow for one passable lane on all subdivisions:
  • 2-4” of snow: 24 hours
  • 4-6” of snow: 48 hours
  • 6” or more: More than 72 hours.
Check out this helpful video from the Virginia Department of Transportation about plowing roads. You can also see when the roads in your Virginia community are plowed with VDOT's Online Snowplow Tracker Tool.


Driving safely on Virginia roads after a winter storm

Prepare to drive safely following a storm with the following tips:

  • Adjust your commute and telework if possible.
  • Remove ALL SNOW AND ICE from your car before driving including sensors and cameras. 
  • Monitor forecasts closely.
  • Avoid travel unless absolutely necessary, especially when black ice is indicated.
  • Drive the conditions.
  • Ensure you have enough gas, wiper fluid, proper tire tread, food, water, and required medication in an emergency kit.
  • Give snowplows room to work.
  • Please be patient and allow extra time to travel.
Cartoon of driver with snow piled on top of car
Waze, the navigation app, developed a new "hazard" to report unplowed roads and black ice after VDOT suggested it might be helpful to drivers. This is really handy for side roads and communities. Just tap on Hazards > Weather > Unplowed Road etc. 
How to Report a Winter Road Hazard with Waze

As a Waze for Cities Data partner, VDOT plans to monitor reports coming in from Wazers and those who are simply shoveling their driveways and sidewalks this winter and determine how they can incorporate this data into their operations for the following winter.

Just don't report hazards while you're driving. You can also report a road issue at 1-800-367-7623 (FOR-ROAD). For life-threatening emergencies, please dial 911. 

Stay safe and let us know if we've left anything out! And let us know how we can serve you. We're close by and ready to serve you.

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