One of the primary concerns is winter weather’s ability to knock out heat, power and communications services to your home or office, sometimes for days at a time.
The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the “Deceptive Killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.
Cold Weather Tips
- When going outside, wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothes. These will help keep you warm while pulling moisture away from your body. A hat will preserve body heat and a scarf over your mouth will help keep cold air out of your lungs. To guard against frostbite, cover all areas of your body.
- Keep an eye out for ice, and if it’s dark out when you leave for or from work, walk like a duck! That is, walk with a slight squat to center your balance in case you step on a patch of ice you couldn’t see. Bending your knees a little and taking slower steps can reduce your chances of falling.
- Mittens vs. Gloves. Gloves may be more fashionable but mittens can actually provide better warmth. With your fingers touching each other inside mittens, they generate more body heat than when they’re inside gloves.
- Bring out those hands! Think twice before walking outside with your hands in your pockets, because putting your hands in your pockets increases your risk of falling or completely losing your balance in case you slip on the ice.
- Drink plenty of fluids. You may not be sweating, but breathing cold air dehydrates the body.
- Protect your eyes and skin. The sun’s radiation and the wind can damage your skin and eyes. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses that screen out the UV rays. Sunlight reflecting off snow can do a lot of damage to your eyes.
- Wear shoes or boots with non-slip or non-skid soles.
- Monitor weather conditions by knowing the latest weather updates.
- If you have to walk in the street, walk against traffic and as close to the curb as you can.
Basic Motor Vehicle Safety in Cold Weather
- Make sure your vehicle has been winterized. Get a tune-up, have the battery checked, make sure the vehicle has enough antifreeze and check the tire tread and tire pressure. Ensure that windshield washer fluid is full. Salt from the roads gets sprayed onto your windshield and can impair visibility.
- Store an emergency kit in your vehicle. It should include jumper cables, flashlight, ice scraper, snow brush, small shovel, sand or kitty litter, cell phone, blankets and flares.
- Check tire traction. If using a rear wheel drive vehicle, keep extra weight in the truck to assist traction. Also, keep the gas tank filled; a gallon of gas weighs approximately seven pounds – and you don’t want to be stuck on empty when idling in winter traffic jams.
- Always clear any snow and ice from all windows, lights, mirrors and the roof before driving.
- Plan your schedule and tell someone the route you will be using and your expected time of arrival.
- Drive safely. Turn your headlights on. Reduce your speed. Allow additional room between your vehicle and others. Avoid abrupt movements when steering, braking, or accelerating. Stay alert to other drivers around you.
- Allow extra time and distance to stop. Stopping on icy roads takes longer than stopping on dry roads.
- Don’t use cruise control or overdrive. You must be completely in control when driving in treacherous conditions.
- If your car should skid, don’t brake. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator and turn the wheel in the direction of the skid. Use gentle, steady motions when turning the steering wheel. If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, don’t pump the brakes. Apply steady even pressure.
- Bridges and overpasses may freeze before the regular travel lanes of a roadway do. Watch out for black ice, also for areas of the roadway that appear black and shiny and where your vehicle can suddenly lose traction.
- If you’re stuck, your wheels spin but your car won’t move. Shovel snow away from the wheels and out from under the car to clear a pathway. Pour sand, salt or gravel around the wheels to improve traction.
- If stuck in traffic, crack your driver’s window slightly to keep carbon monoxide fumes from building up in your car.
- If you have to travel on snow-covered roads, stay in the tracks made by the vehicles in front of you.
- Watch out for other drivers. Just because you have the right of way, don’t assume the other driver can stop for you.
This is a dangerous wintertime hazard because the icy road may not always be visible to the driver. Indeed, melted snow or ice that refreezes may still look deceptively like a dry road.Temperatures don’t have to be below freezing for black ice to develop. Black ice can occur if temperatures are near the freezing mark – or even a few degrees above it.
While a shiny road surface indicates an obviously wet or icy road, a road covered with black ice will look a little different. Be alert for pavement that is slightly darker and a little duller looking than the rest of the road surface – this may indicate black ice. Because black ice is so tricky to detect, you may not realize you are on it until your car begins to slide. Here are some tips on how to drive on black ice:
- As soon as your car begins to slide on black ice, take your foot off the gas pedal.
- Tap the brake pedal lightly instead of pushing down hard on it.
- If you have an idea that there may be black ice ahead (if you see cars ahead of you sliding, for example), downshift to a lower gear before you come onto the black ice.
- If your car begins to skid on the ice, turn the wheel in the direction of the skid.
- Leave plenty of space between your car and other cars on the road.
- Don’t think you’re invincible just because you drive a truck or a big sports utility vehicle. While four-wheel drive vehicles are great for driving in heavy snow, they have no advantage over regular cars when it comes to driving on black ice, so take the necessary safety precautions no matter what type of vehicle you are driving.
After Winter Storms and Extreme Cold
- Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
For more information, go to www.ready.gov/winter-weather.