Tips to stay safe during extremely cold weather

published by: published on 1/7/2015
The National Weather Service is forecasting statewide wind chills to periodically dip down to 20 degrees below zero, or even lower, through the remainder of the week. With these below freezing temperatures affecting our entire region, the Wayne County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division is encouraging Wayne County residents and visitors to take extra precautions when going out in the extreme cold.

“Severe weather, especially the extreme cold that we are experiencing this week, can pose health and safety concerns with frostbite, hypothermia, freezing pipes and even potential power outages” said Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. “We hope that with some additional planning and preparing, Wayne County residents can be ready to deal with these extremely cold and potentially dangerous temperatures."

Tips to stay safe during extremely cold weather

• Monitor local weather reports.
• Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, wear protective gear—such as hats, mittens and gloves—in addition to a warm coat.
• Watch for signs of frostbite, which include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or face.
• Watch for signs of hypothermia, which include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion.
• Understand the hazards of wind chill. As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person's body more rapidly and could lead to severe hypothermia.
• Remove clothing if it gets damp or wet. Wet clothing can make you more prone to hypothermia.
• Weather-proof doors and windows to trap heat inside your home.
• Check heating units. Poorly operating or damaged heating units can release carbon monoxide gas. Test carbon monoxide detectors for proper operation and battery life.
• Check on family, friends and neighbors who are at risk and may need additional assistance.
• Watch pets closely and keep them indoors when possible. Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather injuries.
• Check and restock your emergency preparedness kit. If you don't have a kit, make one.
• Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a full tank of gas and an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle. Put warm clothing—such as gloves, blankets and hats—in your kit in case you become stranded.

During a winter event, drivers are reminded that they can access the Wayne County “Compass” technology to learn what major highways and surface roads have been cleared by the Wayne County Roads Divisions fleet of snow plows and salt trucks. The Wayne County “Compass” system can be located near the top of the Wayne County homepage at www.waynecounty.com

Citizens who may need additional assistance during this extreme cold are encouraged to call the statewide Michigan 211 telephone number for resources.

Wayne County Warming Centers

 10 Tips for winter driving


1. Know your route and keep abreast of weather conditions. The Web can be great source of current weather information. Make a list of Department of Transportation road-condition hotlines and consult them every few hours while you’re on the road. Pay special attention to avalanche conditions along your route, because temporary road closures are common in mountain areas.

2. Drink plenty of water. When the weather is chilly, dehydration might seem unlikely, but according to a study by the Mayo Clinic, as little as a 1-2 percent loss of body weight can lead to fatigue and reduced alertness — both of which can be deadly when you are driving in icy conditions. Carry (and drink) five to six 16-ounce bottles of water per day. Keep them with you in the passenger compartment, as they might freeze in the trunk.

3. Eat enough food. Your body needs more nourishment in cold weather than it does on a balmy summer day. Avoid candy bars and other quick-sugar-release snacks. Sandwiches, fruit or a thermos of hearty stew are much better choices. Carry a day’s worth of high-energy food and water in a warm area of your vehicle in case you are stranded for a few hours.

4. Pack a winter travel safety kit. Include a cell phone, an ice scraper and brush, a tow rope, cat litter (for use as a traction aid), blankets, a good flashlight, a candle, matches, a good book, a portable weather radio and a can of lock de-icer. (Never use hot water on glass or locks — it will refreeze and create a bigger problem.)

5. Slow down. A good rule of thumb is to reduce speed by 50 percent in snowy conditions. Blasting through snowdrifts may look cool in TV advertisements, but it’s way too hard on your vehicle to be worth it. Equally important: Don’t go too slow. Your car needs momentum to keep moving through snow on grades.

6. Keep a light touch on the controls. Smooth operation is the key to keeping control in slippery situations. Nervousness can lead to a hard clench of the steering wheel, which can result in loss of control. Consciously loosen your grasp or stretch out your fingers from time to time to help prevent that white-knuckled grip.

7. Know how to recover from skids. When braking on a slippery road, it’s all too easy to “lock up” your wheels by stepping on the brakes a little too hard. If you start to skid, steer the vehicle gently in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go and don’t touch your brakes. This used to be called “turning into the skid,” but tests have shown that drivers often misinterpret these words in real-life situations. Here’s a detailed explanation of skid recovery.

8. Keep your tires in good condition and properly inflated. Cold weather reduces tire pressure, so check and adjust frequently. Tire tread depth should be at least 1/8-inch, and good snow tires with lugs will outperform just about any all-weather tire on the market. Carry (and be able to install) traction-control devices like snow chains whenever you know you’ll be in a snowy area. Sometimes such devices are required, and if you don’t have a set, you’ll be forced to pay a premium to acquire them on the spot.

9. Make frequent rest stops. Winter travel is much more fatiguing than summer cruising, so stop every hour or so. Get out, stretch — maybe even make a few snow angels! It takes only five minutes to significantly improve your level of alertness.

10. If you get stuck, stay in your vehicle. Stay warm and wait for assistance. Make sure that your exhaust pipe is clear of any obstructions, including snow and ice; if you don’t, carbon monoxide gas can build up inside the vehicle.

Whether you’re hitting the road in winter for work or for pleasure, preparation and knowledge can help keep you whistling “Let it Snow” instead of fighting frostbite in a snowdrift.


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