By Lauren Brant
Snow has finally arrived in Sheridan County after weeks of warmer weather. The snow began falling early Monday morning as wind gusts were reported into the mid-40s, making travel difficult on the morning commute. Snow accumulations were reported between 1 in. to 2 in. across the Panhandle.
With the Wednesday and Thursday forecasts calling for 20 to 30 percent chance of snow showers, winter has arrived. As we work to seal up our homes and fill our cabinets before the big storms, it is important our vehicles have survival kits, especially for people who commute.
Snowy and icy weather is unpredictable and can cause dangerous situations without proper preparation. The Red Cross website provides tips for people traveling in snowy and icy conditions. Standard items people should have in their vehicles during the winter include a window scraper, kitty litter or sand, good windshield wipers, and a full tank of gas. An ice scraper keeps the windows and lights clean of snow and ice while sand or kitty litter provides traction to get the vehicle unstuck.
Another item people should check is tire pressure. Vehicles that sit outside during the cold weather are more affected than those in a garage to low tire pressure. Temperature and pressure are directly linked, meaning they follow each other. When the temperature decreases, the air molecules contract, causing low pressure. It is important to check each tire’s pressure before driving to get an accurate reading. Friction causes tire pressure to increase when driving and can make the tires blowout if overinflated. Low tire pressure also hurts the handling and gas mileage.
Personal items people should pack in case the weather gets too bad are extra clothes, protein snacks, water, blankets, prescription medications, flashlights, and a first aid kit. Depending on the length of the trip, accounting for adequate water is important. For each person in the vehicle, there should be one gallon of water available each day. The food should be non-perishable, so it lasts longer. A cell phone charger is another important item people should take. If the weather conditions worsened, a cell phone might be the only point of contact you have with others. It is important someone knows where you are traveling, the route you are taking, and your expected arrival time. That will alert people when to call for help and where authorities should look.
In the event your vehicle becomes stuck, you should stay in the car. Trying to walk to safety, even if it is not too far away, is dangerous. Oncoming traffic may have reduced visibility and may not see you. With low temperatures, frostbite can occur quickly despite winter clothing. If you have a bright colored scarf, tie it to the vehicle’s antenna to help rescuers see you. Although the temperature may be below freezing, it is important to turn the car off to save gas. The Red Cross advises turning the car on for about ten minutes every hour to use the heat. Keep the exhaust clear of snow and ice to prevent carbon monoxide from getting trapped in the vehicle. To allow fresh air to enter the vehicle, crack a window that is opposite the snow and wind direction.
Once you get back on the road, keep a safe distance between vehicles since stopping takes longer than in dry conditions. Also, buckle up everyone in the vehicle and have them pay attention to the road. Distractions like cell phones can be dangerous in icy conditions.
Snow and ice make traveling treacherous. When people take preventative action, they can have a safe and joyous winter season.