I admit it. There was laughter with my friends at lunch today over the word choices from the weather forecast. Catastrophic and similar foreboding adjectives. I take it back, I really do. The freezing rain has already made it impossible to see out of our windows. They are predicting several inches of potential ice in the next 2 days, and possibility of snow ranging from 10-20 inches (depending of where you live). The ice storm is estimated to cause severe power outages and damage. None of this sounds appealing, does it? Being without power and heat in 4-18 degrees for a few days sounds distinctly unappealing. That said, right now, at this moment we are thankful beyond words for shelter. Our utilities and water work. Our prayers go out to those workers dedicated to serving their communities at their personal risk.
www.osha.gov offers these safety tips if you are in an area with similar risks:
What safety precautions can I take if I must drive in a winter storm?
Inspect the vehicle to ensure the following systems are operating properly:
- Brakes: Brakes should provide even and balanced braking. Also check that brake fluid is at the proper level.
- Cooling System: Ensure a proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water in the cooling system at the proper level.
- Electrical System: Check that battery is fully charged and that connections are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition with proper tension.
- Engine: Inspect all engine systems.
- Exhaust System: Check exhaust for leaks and that all clamps and hangers are snug.
- Tires: Check for proper tread depth and no signs of damage or uneven wear. Check for proper tire inflation.
- Oil: Check that oil is at proper level.
- Visibility Systems: Inspect all exterior lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window), and wipers. Install winter windshield wipers.
Also carry an emergency kit in the vehicle with the following items:
- Blankets/sleeping bags
- Cellular telephone or two-way radio
- Windshield scraper
- Snow brush
- Flashlight with fresh/extra batteries
- Extra winter clothes
- Tow chain
- Traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter)
- Emergency flares
- Jumper cables
- Road maps
For more information, see the National Safety Council’s Winter, Your Car and You. (2009, April), available as a 45 KB PDF, 2 pages.
What should I do if a winter storm strands me in my vehicle?
Stay in the vehicle. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow. Display a trouble sign by hanging a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raising the hood. Turn on the vehicle’s engine for about 10 minutes each hour and run the heat to keep warm. Also, turn on the vehicle’s dome light when the vehicle is running as an additional signal. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Do minor exercises to keep up circulation. Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long. If more than one person is in the vehicle, take turns sleeping. For warmth, huddle together. Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation. Avoid overexertion since cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a vehicle can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.