The first big storm of the winter season is barreling down the Rockies into the Midwest on its way east; according to CBS News in Denver, the temperature there went from 67 degrees and sunny to snowing and freezing cold in the space of 12 hours. An estimated 36.5 million people could be impacted from Colorado to Michigan, with tornados possible in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa. The Southern US won’t escape the front on its trek eastward, with temperatures dipping down to their lowest since the spring.
Because we humans are forgetful, winter surprises us when it hits suddenly. Common sense goes out the window. The news the last few days has featured videos of normally winter-savvy Colorado drivers running into each other and spinning out on ice because they were surprised they couldn’t drive their normal 70 miles an hour in winter conditions.
There is a lot to remember when going from summer/fall into winter, so here’s a quick list of things to do as quickly as possible, regardless of where you live:
- Keep your eye on the weather forecast. Sudden storms, whether snow or tornados, can catch you unaware, so staying on top of local and regional weather can mean the difference between life and death, literally.
- Have an escape plan and rendevous point already selected. Regardless where you live, make sure everyone in your family knows where to rendevous if you get evacuated or separated.
- Charge your devices. You may be without power several days, so make sure you have ext battery packs for your phones, portable radios and other devices.
- Before weather strikes, put aside an emergency stash of bottled water, toilet paper, batteries and ready-to-eat protein bars.
- Check your tires and brakes today. Make sure your tire pressure is where it needs to be. Remember that tire pressure goes down when it gets cold outside, so you may need to add air. Your tires are your first line of defense against sliding on wet or icy pavement. Take a look at your treads, as well; if there”s a question, replace your tires before everyone else heads into the tire store.
- Slow down. Better yet, if it’s raining or snowing where you live, don’t drive at all, unless it’s essential. Wet pavement can be as slick as icy pavement and can hide ice underneath, especially on bridges and overpasses. You may be a safe driver, but some think they can drive normally when it’s raining or snowing, especially as the temperatures start falling. Roads can become skating rinks, especially as the temperatures drop.
- Watch for black ice, especially on bridges and overpasses, regardless where you live. Think about it – concrete, being surrounded on all sides with very cold air, turns cold. Add water. Voila – ice, even if the air temperature isn’t below 32 degrees.
- Four-wheel drive does not save you from ice. Four-wheel drive may help you maintain more traction on wet pavement, but nothing but slower speeds and being extra careful will save you from ice.
- Bring in all your outdoor plants you want to save. If they’re too big or are in the ground, cover them with blankets before it starts to rain.
- Bring your pets in. This sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many people would rather leave their family pets outside in the cold. If it feels cold to you, it will feel cold to them; there’s no excuse for leaving pets outside in bad weather.
- Keep water dripping from faucets overnight to keep the pipes from freezing if the temperature is going to be below 32-degrees. Standing or still water freezes quickly in cold weather. An alternative would be to insulate the pipes, but that takes time and if you don’t have it, just let the water drip slowly.
Stay safe and warm. Enjoy having time to spend with your family when you can’t go out – there aren’t that many days like this here. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at “go bags,” something every person needs to have in case of emergency.