Ways to handle the weather

Stephanie Vallez · Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Winter is in full swing and temperatures have been all over. The arctic winds have come and gone and will surely come and go again.

The precipitation has turned roads to ice, then to slush, then dried up again only to get covered in more powdery snow which will surely be ice and slush again.

Winter’s beauty may be dazzling, but it holds hidden dangers. The roads become unsafe, and many commuters will find themselves in the ditch.

The temperatures can drop so low that frostbite can occur in just a few minutes of exposure.

For many people, staying safe by staying home may not be an option. The kids have to get to school. People need to get to work, they need to get groceries. Life goes on in spite of dangerously low temperatures and poor road conditions.

So how can everyone stay safe out there? There are a few simple practices that can help keep everyone safe during inclement weather.

Keep an eye on the weather and plan ahead

If a winter storm is coming and it isn’t absolutely necessary to travel, then stay home.

For those who don’t have a choice about driving during inclement weather, plan to leave a little early and stick to main roads if possible.

The Iowa Department of Transportation offers information about road conditions for travelers. You can use their website at 511ia.org, or simply dial 511 for the latest information for traveling through Iowa.

Keep your phone charged

It seems obvious, but make an extra effort to be sure you aren’t going to find yourself stuck in a ditch with no battery left.

If you don’t have a cell phone, make sure someone knows where you’re going, when you should arrive and which roads you’ll take to get there.

If anything does happen along the way, you can be sure that someone is prepared to look for you and knows where to look.  

Take care of your car

Make sure any ongoing car problems get resolved as soon as possible. Consumer Reports recommends keeping your battery in good shape, replacing your wiper blades and checking your tires.

“Big drops in temperature mean your tires will lose air,” Consumer Reports warns, “because tire pressure declines with the thermometer.”

Keep an emergency kit for your car

Officer Houser of the West Liberty Police Department has some recommendations for what you might include in a car kit.

In addition to some basics like flashlights, a first aid kit, granola bars and bottled water, he also suggests “some of those hand heaters, extra gloves, extra hats, blankets, some extra clothing, in case you’re stranded for a little while.”

This area has certainly seen plenty of winter storms that made conditions unsafe for rescue workers too.

Sometimes the tow trucks have to wait until the storm ends. Officer Houser notes that it might be some time before someone can rescue you during a snowstorm.

“Sometimes they shut down the plows,” Houser said, and the emergency kit “doesn’t take up much space in your car.”

Don’t let kids play outside if temperatures are very cold

The National Weather Service offers a chart to help determine how long it takes for exposed skin to get frostbite based on temperature and wind chill, but the best advice is to stay in when it feels very cold out.

Twenty degrees makes for a fun day of sledding, but much colder than that and it’s not so much fun anymore.

When it is time to play out in the snow, keep an eye on wet fingers and toes. And make sure to remind children that throwing snowballs is fun, but throwing ice can be deadly.  

Check up on each other

Ask your friends and neighbors if they have all the heat and food they need during bad weather.

Call each other and make sure everyone is somewhere safe. Be looking out for the senior citizens in your area, especially those living alone.

Find out if your neighbors who normally walk to work need a ride when it’s very cold out. Find out if their kids need help getting to school.

Every winter it seems like the ditches fill with cars along I-80 and the TV news reports someone who froze to death in their own home when their furnace went out.

A fall on the ice can be very dangerous for a senior citizen. A heart attack can happen while shoveling snow.    

We must all vigilantly watch out for each other and take care of each other a little more than usual when the weather gets dangerous.

Neighbors helping neighbors is how Iowans have always survived the harsh winters, and winter isn’t giving us any reason to change that policy.
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