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winter prep

  • Trapped in Traffic: Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving

    For Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law, his wife, and a few cousins drove from Utah to California to visit family for the holiday. As they were driving back to Utah the following Sunday, the weather turned sour. It wasn’t snowing heavily – just light rain and sleet, according to my brother-in-law – but that didn’t stop a wreck from happening 80 miles away from their home.

    winter-traffic winter drivingFortunately they weren't involved, but traffic was at a standstill. They would later discover that a semi-truck had jackknifed on the freeway, blocking all lanes. My brother-in-law took a side road – along with everyone else on the freeway – in order to get around the accident. As it turned out, traffic slowed to a crawl – and then full on stop – on that road as well. They moved six miles in an hour and a half. It was 8:00 at night, and they had work and school the next day.

    Later, they learned what had caused the stoppage on the access road – another semi-truck had jackknifed.

    Such experiences can be very frustrating. Fortunately, they all made it back safe and sound. The only casualty was a bit of sanity and some much needed sleep. But they’re alright, and that’s what matters.

    Winter has arrived here in Utah, and if it hasn’t arrived for you yet, it could very soon.

    We talk a lot about preparing your home and food storage for emergencies and disasters (which also includes winter), but today we’d like to help you get your car ready for winter driving conditions.

    First off, how’s your car’s emergency kit? Just like in your home, your car should be prepared with the essentials, just in case you slide off the road or are otherwise stranded in the cold. Ready.gov has a list of necessary items for your car’s kit. Some of those include the following:

     

    • Shovel
    • Windshield scraper
    • Flashlight
    • Water
    • Snack food
    • Blankets and warm clothing
    • Road salt/sand
    • Booster cables

     

    These are some of the basic necessities that need to go with you wherever you travel throughout the winter. Of course, you may have special circumstances and needs which you should prepare for as well, such as medications, pet supplies, or other such items.

    Thinking back on the experience of my brother-in-law, what might have happened if they had things not worked out for them? My first thought is gas.

    What would their trip home have been like if their gas tank had been low going into that traffic jam? During a chilly winter night, they could have been stuck without heat. Blankets, hats, mittens, and other warm clothing would have been a very welcomed resource in that situation. Fortunately, their gas tank was full enough until they could reach the next town (the towns are spread out quite far in the area in which they were stuck, so things could have been a lot worse).

    winter driving

    If they had been stuck on the road, snacks and water would not only do wonders for their morale, but help keep them hydrated, alert, and functioning properly in the event they needed more than just corn ships. Flashlights would have been useful in checking under the hood in case of car trouble (or having light by which passengers could read while they wait). A traffic jam is one thing. Sliding off the road in the middle of nowhere and having to wait for help to arrive would certainly require an emergency stash of gear.

    And the list goes on.

    You see, we never can plan for disasters (including two jackknifed trucks blocking two roads on one trip). That’s why it’s so important to have emergency gear and supplies in your car. The example scenarios above are only meant to give a hint of what could have been – the possibilities of what could have happened are many.

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 winter driving

  • T-Rex Spotted Shoveling Snow During Blizzard: How People Avoided Cabin Fever During the East Coast Storm

    During last weekend’s East Coast blizzardT-Rex Shovels Snow GIF - Cabin Fever, 50 people died, a quarter of a million lost power and hundreds of accidents were reported. But for most people, the blizzard was simply a time to stay inside or shovel snow. They managed to keep busy. One dressed in a T-rex costume to shovel snow, and another dressed up in a panda costume and challenged a real panda to a “snow battle.” Others skied and snowboarded down New York City streets or caught up on TV and movies. An enterprising Brooklyn, N.Y., resident built an igloo then put it up for rent on AirBNB. A few crazy swimmers practiced outside in Speedos ™. Many people had epic adventures with snowballs. One couple got married and another had a baby.

    One thing no one mentioned they did was prepare for the next storm or disaster. However, if basic needs are met, a snowbound day can be an ideal time to review disaster preparations and make a few more. Here are a few ideas.

    Financial preparation might be just as important to well-being as physical preparation. Last weekend, Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary suggested using the blizzard to do a budget. She even provided a link to free budget templates.

    It’s especially useful to prepare a budget now because, as she pointed out, the 2016 tax season just began and taxpayers must pull out financial documents anyway.

    While all those financial documents are out, pull out insurance information too. Find out what deductibles are in case of things like roof damage. Since most homeowner’s insurance policies won’t cover floods, consider flood insurance. In Cape May, New Jersey, one restaurant owner said his restaurant flooded “worse than (Hurricane) Sandy.” Melting snow and blocked gutters can also cause flooding, even in non-flood-prone areas.

    Empty Shelves - Cabin FeverEven with advance warning of storms, stores still have a hard time keeping enough food and supplies in stock, because they must rely on suppliers’ schedules and they don’t have large back rooms to store things. So it’s a good idea to keep short-term food storage on hand. Look at emergency supplies already in the house and consider investing in a few more. Despite traditional suggestions, stocking up on bread, milk, and eggs right before a snowstorm may not be the best idea, especially if a power outage shuts down the refrigerator.

    Thanks to online shopping, it’s possible to order emergency supplies even during a major winter storm. Emergency Essentials has sales for items like winter sleeping bags, hot chocolate, flashlights, water storage and tents.

    Finally, winter snowstorms can help people get to know their neighbors – which, in addition to being a good way to make friends, can help if major weather events turn severe. Before the snowstorm, news crews bumped into Alex Ovechkin, a top winger and captain for hockey’s Washington Capitals, getting fuel so he could plow his neighbors’ driveways. A “Star Wars”-themed snowball fight advertised on Facebook brought out hundreds of people in Washington, D.C.

    Even during a major winter storm, it’s possible to prepare for the next one. And the next one’s coming. A smaller storm crawling up the East Coast may bring rain and snow this weekend. Another major winter storm developing off the northwestern U.S. is forecast to bring winter weather to the Rockies and Great Plains for Groundhog Day.

    - Melissa

     

    How are you preparing for the next winter storm? And how do you plan on combating cabin fever?

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 - Cabin Fever

  • What We Learned: The Historic Blizzard 2016 Took Its Toll on the East

    Sledding Down the Steps - ABC News Sledding down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial - via ABC News

    The eastern winter storm has come and gone, and it was an even bigger whopper than meteorologists feared. It dumped more than two feet of snow up and down the eastern seaboard, breaking snowfall records (it just missed breaking the New York City record by one-tenth of an inch). At least 250,000 people lost power and more than 50,000 remained in darkness Sunday.

    It wreaked havoc with travel plans. It caused cancellation of more than 12,900 airline flights from the New England to Florida. Runways at Dulles and Reagan National airports, two of Washington D.C.’s largest, stayed closed Sunday, and flights were still being canceled for Monday. New York City shut down public transportation and banned road travel, as did other major cities.

    "Historical snow storm. Please be patient, it will take a while for clean-up – especially small streets," tweeted Baltimore's Transportation Department, according to USA Today.

    Despite travel bans, hundreds of accidents were reported. Two college sports teams, along with many other vehicles, were stranded for a day on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Hundreds more cars were stranded overnight on a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 75 in Kentucky after accidents closed the road. Even President Obama’s motorcade got caught in storm traffic. At least 30 people died, more than half from automobile accidents. Some died from carbon monoxide poisoning in buried cars whose tailpipes were blocked.

    With all this in mind, here’s a reminder of some things you can do to prepare for travel trials.

    If you’re planning to fly to or from a storm-affected area, closely watch the weather. This storm was forecast for a week, so cancellations started days early. With enough lead time, you might be able to change your flight plans beforehand. Airlines usually issue travel waivers to allow passengers to change flights without penalties.

    Don’t leave for the airport until you’re sure your flight is actually leaving. Web site FlightAware tracks delays and cancellations.

    Duquesne men's basketball team - Blizzard 2016 It took the Duquesne men's basketball team almost 30 hours to get home from Virginia - via Duquesne Men's Basketball

    The adventures of the Duquesne University men’s basketball team, as reported in USA Today, illustrates several aspects of being prepared for winter travel. The team bus got stuck for a day while traveling home to Pittsburgh after a Friday basketball game in Virginia.

    First, keep a full gas tank. When the players’ bus got stuck, it had three-quarters of a tank left. That meant the bus had heat and power. It also meant the players could recharge their phones. Ready.gov suggests adding ways to communicate to your emergency kit, like a battery powered radio or a phone or emergency flares or a distress flag (if you don’t have a way to charge a phone, this story from USA Today gives tips about how to make its battery last longer).

    Second, keep some emergency supplies in your vehicle. After emergency workers cleared the road enough for the bus to get through, players had to shovel it out. According to the USA Today story, the players had to use empty pizza boxes and plastic garbage cans to clear the way. And after they got the bus out, they didn’t go 300 yards before their bus got stuck again and players had to push it out. A little sand and a shovel, as recommended by ready.gov, might have been useful.

    Third, make sure you’ve got food and water. The players had bought food at a convenience store right before they got stuck. However, after most of a day in "a big stretch of nothing," as Duquesne coach Jim Ferry told USA TODAY Sports, food was running low. They had water because a local fire department brought water to stranded vehicles.

    The team tried to arrange for pizza delivery to any nearby point, but could only get one pizza place to even consider it. Finally, some emergency workers gave a few of them a lift to a grocery store, where they bought food for themselves and a bus full of middle school students that was stuck next to them.

    Fortunately, the team eventually made it home. Members of a family in New Jersey didn’t. The father was trying to dig out his car while his wife and children, ages 1 and 3, waited inside the running vehicle.

    They didn’t realize the tailpipe was blocked with snow, which sent carbon monoxide back into the vehicle. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless poisonous gas produced by burning fossil fuel. The mom and 1-year-old died, and the 3-year-old remains hospitalized.

    If you get trapped in a vehicle during a snowstorm, run the vehicle sparingly and please make sure the tailpipe stays clear.

    --Melissa

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image - Blizzard 2016

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