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Winter

  • 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

  • Winter Has Arrived: 4 Ways to Prepare for the Next Storm

    On November 17, 2016, Utah experienced its first snow storm of the year. Sure, it mostly just accumulated on the grass because the roads were too warm. But there was snow!

     

    The winter weather that Utah experienced was the tail end of a larger storm passing over the Northern Plains. Utah was only under a winter weather advisory, but parts of Minnesota and South Dakota faced a Blizzard warning. On November 18, 2016, however, Winter Storm Argos continued to blow powerful winds and dumped over a foot of snow as it made its way through South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

     

     

    Winter, it would seem, has finally arrived.

    While the snow may still melt, we can take this as a warning that more winter storms will be coming along. That means it’s high time to get out your winter gear. But what, exactly, should you be prepared with?

     

    1. Warmth

    One of the biggest threats winter weather brings is cold temperatures. Fortunately, with a little planning, this can be countered rather easily. If you’re in your home, you most likely have access to warm clothing, blankets, and perhaps even a generator and heat lamp to counter any power outages.

    mr-heater-lifestyle-image-ck-h800 Winter Storm ArgosBut if there is a power outage, there are still ways to get extra heat, even without a generator.

    Portable propane heaters provide reliable heat that that are even safe to use indoors. This image shows off the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy connected to a propane tank. But you don’t necessarily need a tank that large. Instead, smaller one-pound propane cylinders provide up to 6 hours of heat.

    Hand and body warmers are a smaller, more space-friendly alternative to larger heaters. Once activated, they produce heat for up to 18 hours. These are ideal for your car’s emergency kit, since they don’t take up much space but can help keep you warm while you wait for assistance should a patch of ice force you off the road. (Of course, keeping blankets, gloves, and hats in your car is also a good idea during the winter months.)

     

    1. Shelter

    Shelter plays a big role in keeping warm, and it will also keep you out of the elements, including snow and wind. Shelter could range from your home, a tent, or even just a tarp. In fact, your car can transform into a warm shelter by lining the interior with reflective blankets. That way, your body heat will be trapped inside. It would take a number of blankets, but the idea still shows that anywhere can be warm if you’re prepared.

     

    1. Food and Water

    Ice Storm (CNN) Winter Storm ArgosWinter storms can dump huge amounts of snow and leave the roads slicker than an ice rink. When this happens, there’s a good chance you could be trapped in your home. We posted an article back in May, 2015 about how one family from Kentucky was trapped inside their home for a couple of days because of a storm that knocked out power and iced the roads. They were stuck indoors, wrapped in blankets, and cooked with a portable propane stove.

    Whenever a huge storm of any kind is expected, grocery stores run low on the essentials, including bread, eggs, and milk. But if you have food already stored, you won’t have to rush to the store only to find empty shelves. Likewise, having extra water stored can help in a pinch if your water pipes freeze over or water is otherwise unavailable.

    Once you have food and water, you will still need an alternate method to cook, just in case. In the example above, the family couldn’t use their stove or oven because it ran on electricity. Fortunately, they had a way to cook. Many people, when the power goes out, will not. Your alternate cooking options range from small gas powered stoves to flameless cookers. Small cookers don’t take up much space, making them ideal for emergencies (and camping and hiking, too!).

     

    1. Lighting

    Flashlight Reading Winter Storm ArgosThe thing about winter is, it gets dark so early! Many places in the country will need to turn on the lights even at 5:00 in the evening. If the power goes out, you’ll most certainly want some extra light sources. Flashlights are always a good option, but the can become a nuisance if you have to hold on to it for hours on end while you get things done around the house.

    One option is a flashlight that charges in a base that plugs into a wall outlet. As soon as the power goes out, the base lights up, not only illumining the room, but also helping you find your flashlight so you can reach the rest of your prep in other darkened rooms. Lanterns are also a good option, since they provide light while standing or hanging on their own.

     

    Of course, books and board games are also necessary when you’re trapped at home, and anything else you and your family would enjoy (like snacks and blanket forts). But before the next storm comes, make sure you’re prepared with these basic necessities to see you though cold days and even colder nights.

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 Winter Storm Argos

     

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  • Don't Make These 4 Mistakes While Exercising in the Winter

    I love to run and exercise outside. When it comes to exercise, I’ve managed to do most things wrong. This especially goes for winter exercising. A couple of times, I’ve exercised myself into life-threatening situations. So, based on my experience, here’s what not to do while exercising in winter.

     

    Error 1: Don’t dress for the weather

    Repeat after me. Cotton is bad. When cotton gets wet, it doesn’t dry. Wet clothes lose their ability to insulate, which means they can’t keep you warm.

    closeup feet group athletes running snowy path in woods

    When you exercise, wear synthetic, tight-fitting layers. On your upper body, wear a wicking bottom layer, a warm, synthetic fleece middle layer and a wind- and waterproof outer layer. Different experts estimated you can lose at least 10 percent of body heat from your head, so wear a hat and something around your neck. You can lose as much as 30 percent of body heat through your hands and feet, so wear mittens and consider two pairs of socks: an inner wicking pair and an outer wool pair. Dress for temperatures 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. If you’re warm as you begin exercising, you’re overdressed.

    Winter exercising means dealing with ice, snow, slush, and puddles. Consider wearing trail running shoes or use a waterproof spray on your shoes. If you’ll be walking or running in snow, think about something like YakTrax, a shoe equivalent of a car’s tire chains. Consider trying snowshoeing – many ski rental places will also rent snowshoes.

    I learned the necessity of appropriate dress the hard way when I went on a guided winter mountain climb. I had practically no experience with snow and no synthetic winter gear. I borrowed a nylon track suit and snow boots. However, my t-shirt and long underwear were all cotton. As I climbed, I began to sweat heavily. Every time I stopped to rest, I unzipped my jacket and pulled off my gloves to cool off.

    The year I did the winter mountain climb was unseasonably warm. The snow on the mountain was deep but soft. Every step I took I sank to my thighs. When I wasn’t sinking, I was slipping. Both the exertion and the slipping contributed to my soggy state. Soon, I was shivering and spots on my legs and hands went numb and white. I was exhausted.

     

    Error 2: Stay out in wet weather for too long

    One expert recommended spending no more than 45 minutes running during rain or sleet. Most advised exercising indoors on wet days. All recommended getting into dry clothes as fast as possible after exercising outdoors.

    I did a duathlon (running and biking) in icy rain. I wore the right clothes, but I was slow and ended up soaked and freezing for more than 90 minutes. I began shaking uncontrollably, I was clumsy and my thinking was muddled.

     

    Error 3: Don’t know the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite

    HypothermiaHypothermia occurs when a body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees, according to WebMD. It’s usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, but can occur in moderate temperatures if a person has certain medical conditions or is wet. Symptoms include heavy shivering, confusion, drowsiness, slurred or mumbled speech, loss of coordination and a slow, weak pulse.

    Frostbite occurs when skin and tissue freeze after exposure to cold temperatures, according to the Mayo Clinic. Frostnip is a very mild version of frostbite that can be treated with first aid. Symptoms include off-colored skin, prickling and numbness in the affected area, hard or waxy-looking skin and blisters or swelling after rewarming.

    Both on the mountain and after the duathlon, without knowing it, I developed mild hypothermia. Also on the mountain, without my knowledge, frostnip developed in my hands.

     

    Error 4: Don’t have a buddy

    Fortunately, both on the mountain and after the duathlon, I was with others. On the mountain, two other climbers helped me thaw frozen extremities, climb down, and get home. My future husband was at the duathlon as my cheerleader, and he helped me find dry clothes and get warmed up before driving me home. In both cases I put myself into trouble, but because of others’ assistance, I suffered no lasting ill effects.

     

    Winter exercising can be great. Sunshine provides vitamin D to help with the winter blues. You actually burn more calories when you exercise, because your muscles aren’t as efficient. Exercising strengthens heart muscles and, as long as you don’t overdo it, can help your immune system keep out winter bugs. But take extra precautions to make winter exercising fun and safe. Don’t learn the hard way like I did.

    - Melissa

     

    What are your tips for exercising outside in the winter cold?

     

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