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Keep car ready for winter storms

Thu., Dec. 18, 2008

Our new weather pattern has brought some snow and very frigid weather to the Inland Northwest.

As of early Tuesday, many locations reported temperatures below zero. At the airport, it was 5 below zero. Winter officially begins Sunday and we’ll likely see a number of days with moderate to heavy snows in the region. Even at this time of year, many folks travel through the mountain areas to ski or to head to Western Washington.

What if you and your family were trapped in your car by a blizzard in bitterly cold temperatures?

Do you stay in the vehicle or, perhaps, try to run to the nearest home or business? What if you have no cell phone or are out of range. Do you panic? That’s, unfortunately, the typical response.

The only safe thing to do is to stay in your vehicle. Nothing is more dangerous than getting lost in whiteout conditions of blowing and drifting snow during a fierce blizzard. Here are some tips for survival:

1. Run the vehicle’s engine and heater only as often as needed to keep from freezing. This will conserve fuel. Always fill your tank before entering hazardous areas such as mountains or wastelands.

2. Watch out for deadly carbon monoxide. This odorless exhaust gas is extremely poisonous. Make sure that a window is open at least two inches for ventilation and don’t let snow block the exhaust pipe.

3. Make sure if you’re stuck for an extended period in a snowbound vehicle that you move around. Try singing and clapping your hands. This will likewise keep you from falling asleep.

4. Don’t forget to carry a sleeping bag plus extra blankets in the car during winter months. A reliable flashlight is a must. A small portable shovel may not be a bad idea either. Water and some nonperishable food are also necessities.

5. Last, but certainly not least, try to stay awake as long as possible. If you are not alone, try to sleep in shifts to be able to signal rescuers. Above all, don’t panic. Be patient.

More bitterly cold air will grip the Inland Northwest into early next week. Then, just before Christmas, there is the possibility more snow with a bit milder temperatures with afternoon highs into the upper 20s and lower 30s, and morning lows in the teens. These are almost perfect conditions for a variety of wintertime activities such as sledding, skiing, snowboarding and ice fishing.

Since I don’t see a big warm-up, the chances are very good for a beautiful white Christmas as the snow on the ground should not melt due to the colder temperatures.

Contact Randy Mann at randy

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