Hitting the road this holiday? In some areas winter weather
means snow, sleet and ice that can lead to slower traffic,
hazardous road conditions and unseen dangers. Are you prepared?
According to a recent
FEMA survey, 52 percent
of people reported having supplies set aside for use in a
If your travel needs call for driving in wintry weather,
prepare your car for the
trip by updating your vehicle emergency kit with:
Blankets, hats, socks, and mittens;
Road salt or sand; and
A fluorescent distress flag.
While on the road, follow these
driving techniques to
ensure you reach your destination safely:
Decrease your speed and leave plenty of room to stop;
Break gently to avoid skidding;
Do not use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads; and
Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to others.
Road conditions can change quickly! Should disaster strike when
traveling, use the Disaster Reporter feature on the
FEMA app to send
photos of your location for first responders and response teams
to view. You can also keep up with weather forecasts using your
NOAA weather radio to
plan ahead! Remember safety first. If weather conditions are too
severe, it’s best not to drive.
Before venturing out on a frozen lake or pond
keep in mind:
There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice!
Even if ice is a foot thick in one area on a
lake, it can be one inch thick just a few yards away. It’s
impossible to judge the strength of ice by its appearance,
thickness, daily temperature, or snow cover alone. Ice strength
is actually dependent on all four factors, plus water depth
under the ice, the size of the water and water chemistry,
currents, and distribution of the load on the ice.
Here are a few general guidelines:
Wait to walk out on the ice until there are at least 4 inches of
clear, solid ice. Thinner ice will support one person, but
since ice thickness can vary considerably, especially at the
beginning and end of the season, 4 inches will provide a margin
of safety. Some factors that can change ice thickness include
flocks of waterfowl and schools of fish. By congregating in a
small area, fish can cause warmer water from the bottom towards
the surface, weakening or in some cases opening large holes in
Go out with a buddy and keep a good distance apart as you walk
out. If one of you goes in the other can call for help (it’s
amazing how many people carry cellular phones these days). The
companion can also attempt a rescue if one of you are carrying
rope or other survival gear.
Snowmobiles and ATV’s need at least 5 inches, and cars and light
trucks need at least 8-12 inches of good clear ice.
Contact a local resort or bait shop for information about known
thin ice areas.
Wear a life
jacket. Life vests or float coats provide excellent flotation
and protection from hypothermia (loss of body temperature).
Never wear a life jacket if you are traveling in an enclosed
vehicle, however. It could hamper escape in case of a
Carry a pair of
homemade ice picks or even a pair of screwdrivers tied together
with a few yards of strong cord that can be used to pull
yourself up and onto the ice if you do fall in. Be sure they
have wooden handles so if you drop them in the struggle to get
out of the water, they won’t go straight to the bottom!
on the ice whenever possible. Traveling in a vehicle, especially
early or late in the season is simply "an accident waiting to
Be prepared to bail out in a hurry if you find it necessary to
use a car, unbuckle your seatbelt and have a plan of action if
you do breakthrough. Some safety experts recommend driving with
the window rolled down and the doors ajar for an easy escape.
Move your car frequently. Parking in one place for a long period
weakens ice. Don’t park near cracks, and watch out for pressure
ridges or ice heaves.
Don’t drive across ice at night or when it is snowing. Reduced
visibility increases your chances for driving into an open or
weak ice area. Do not overdrive your headlights by going to
fast, at even 30 miles per hour it can take a much longer
distance to stop on ice than your headlight shines. Many fatal
snowmobile through the ice accidents occur because the machine
was traveling too fast for the operator to stop when the
headlamp illuminated the hole in the ice.
avoid alcoholic beverages. Beer and booze increases your chances
for hypothermia and increases the likelihood that you’ll make a
stupid mistake that will cost you or a companion their life.
Having taken all of these precautions, you’re
now going to try your luck by going on the ice.
What if a companion falls through thin ice?
Keep calm and think
out a solution.
Don't run up to the
hole. You'll probably break through and then there will be two
Use some item on shore
to throw or extend to the victim to pull them out of the water
such as jumper cables or skis, or push a boat ahead of you.
If you can't rescue
the victim immediately, call 911. It's amazing how many people
carry cell phones.
Get medical assistance
for the victim. People who are subjected to cold water immersion
but seem fine after being rescued can suffer a potentially fatal
condition called "after drop" that may occur when cold blood
that is pooled in the body's extremities starts to circulate
again as the victim starts to re-warm.
What if YOU fall in?
Try not to panic. Instead, remain calm and turn
toward the direction you came from. Place your hands and
arms on the unbroken surface of the ice (here's where the ice
picks come in handy.) Work forward on the ice by kicking your
feet. If the ice breaks, maintain your position and slide
forward again. Once you are lying on the ice, don't stand.
Instead, roll away from the hole. That spreads out your weight
until you are on solid ice. This sounds much easier than it
really is to do.
The best advice is don't put yourself into
needless danger by venturing out too soon or too late in the
season. Try to not go out alone and always have a plan if
something does go wrong.
There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice
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