While parts of Iowa have already seen snowfall twice in recent weeks, today is Winter Weather Awareness Day. Meteorologist Jeff Johnson, at the National Weather Service, says a host of important information is being posted on the agency’s website to help Iowans prepare for what could be wicked weather ahead. “We’ll talk about what makes up a winter storm,” Johnson says. “Some of the things you’ll see from the National Weather Service in the way of products, and what I mean by that is, our winter storm watches, warnings and advisories, and things folks can do to make themselves more safe this winter season.”

The first day of winter is December 21st, but winter weather may arrive much sooner. While there’s much speculation, Johnson says it’s really too early to say what kind of winter Iowa will experience. “Looking at the long-range predictions, there are a lot of uncertainties as to the weather pattern for the upper Midwest, so at this point, about all we can do is prepare for the worst,” Johnson says. “Expect some snow events and extreme cold.”

States just west of Iowa were whalloped by a paralyzing blizzard in early October. B.J. Fictum, an emergency management consultant, says the most important thing Iowans can do is prepare for up to 72 hours without any outside help. “Look out in western Nebraska, look at South Dakota earlier this year, you couldn’t get anywhere for at least 48 hours or more,” Fictum says. “They need to have enough stuff, enough food, enough medicine, enough supplies so they can do it. That’s what we’re trying to push. Make sure to be prepared and be self sufficient.”

Other supplies to keep stocked include: a flashlight with batteries, a portable radio or weather radio, and an emergency heat source. Also, have a survival kit in your vehicle, with items like: blankets or sleeping bags, extra clothing, a first aid kit, flashlights, mobile phone and charger, a shovel and scraper and non-perishable food items. Learn more at www.weather.gov.