HomeNewsTips for staying safe during hazardous winter weather conditions

Tips for staying safe during hazardous winter weather conditions

According to The National Weather Service, over 5,000 individuals are killed and 418,000 are injured due to storm-related auto accidents. One thing to be aware of is black ice, which are clear patches of freezing rain that are difficult to see on road tops. If you can’t avoid traveling, then be sure to drive extra slowly. Always be sure to let others know where you are as often as you can throughout your trip and try to have another person with you at all times. It’s highly advisable to carry a winter storm kit with items such as additional phone accessories like backup chargers and batteries, along with toiletry items, snacks, flashlights with batteries, a first aid kit, sand or cat litter for perilous roads, waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water and a compass with paper maps in case technology fails. You can find a full list of items to get for your home, work office, and vehicle on the NWS winter page.

If you find yourself stranded in the middle of a winter storm without shelter, it is critical to either seek the nearest shelter available to you or to use the resources you have at your disposal to create shelter. Remember snow can be a source of hydration, if necessary. You can generate body heat in order to avoid the risk of hypothermia, which is a severe drop in body temperature, but be sure to not overexert yourself as too much exercise may actually harm you more. Common symptoms of hypothermia are confusion, shivering, difficulty speaking, sleepiness, and stiff muscles. Keeping yourself warm can greatly reduce the risk of hypothermia. 

In the event you are stranded in your vehicle, remember to go as slow as possible. If your car skids, keep calm and take your foot off the accelerator and turn your steering wheel in the safest direction that the front of your vehicle can take you. If you have Anti-Lock Brakes, only apply steady pressure on the brake pedal. ABS is designed to automatically pump your brakes for you in situations such as these, so there is no reason for you to manually pump them. If you cannot see where you are going, promptly pull over to keep from getting disoriented and wait for conditions to improve. Be sure to turn off all of your lights and initiate your parking brake, as counter intuitive as it may seem. This will help prevent other disoriented drivers with minimal visibility from trying to follow your taillights and accidentally crashing into you. 

Graphic by Chris Swann

Some other things to consider if you’re driving:

Exiting your vehicle will only lead you to become more disoriented than you already might be. Try to avoid it. The exception to this is to incrementally check your exhaust pipe to make sure snow doesn’t build up, which could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Create adequate ventilation inside your vehicle by cracking windows when running the heater. 

The National Weather Service advises anyone stuck in their vehicle to run their engine at least 10 minutes every hour. 

Remain visible to potential rescuers by keeping a light on at night when running your engine. You can also tie a bright-colored cloth to your car’s antenna or door in order to make others aware of your presence. 

Driving in storms can be challenging to new drivers, or those who don’t often encounter those conditions. Make sure to be prepared by keeping an emergency kit in your car with items like a first aid kit, extra batteries for electronics or radios, non-perishable food items like crackers and water, and a copy of your car’s manual for information on its safety features. If not absolutely necessary, don’t drive in conditions you aren’t comfortable in. 

If you find yourself stranded indoors:

Avoid wasting heat by closing off any doors leading to rooms that aren’t in use. 

Trap heat by adding barriers like towels or handcloths under doors. 

Keep curtains and blinds closed to stave off cold from the outside and retain heat. 

Keep yourself hydrated and hunger-satiated with non-caffeinated beverages and snacks that are high in calories in order to stay energized, which will keep your core temperature steady; light exercise also aids in this, just be careful not to overexert yourself. Sweating can lead to chills.

Information gathered from weather.gov/safety/winter.

Most Popular