Keep safe this winter

The winter of 2018-19 was one for the record books in Wisconsin, with the state experiencing heavy snowfalls and dangerously cold temperatures brought on by the polar vortex. To help prepare everyone for what to expect in the months ahead, Gov. Tony Evers has declared Nov. 4-8, 2019 Winter Awareness Week in Wisconsin.

Winter storms are considered deceptive killers, because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. For example, in the last five years Wisconsin has averaged 50,000 motor vehicle crashes during winter months. An average of 45 people are killed and more than 5,000 injured on icy or snow-covered roads.

When traveling take the time to make plans by checking the latest weather reports to avoid a winter storm. You can find out the latest road conditions by visiting the Wisconsin Department of Transportation travel information website at www.511wi.gov or by calling 511.

It is also important to check and winterize your vehicles before the winter season begins. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Make sure your car’s battery is in good shape—cold temperatures can reduce the effectiveness of a battery by 50 percent.

If expecting adverse weather during your trip, tell someone at both ends of your journey where you are going and the route you intend to take. Report your safe arrival. Make certain that both parties have your cell phone number and license plate number before you start your trip.

Here are some driving tips. Be gentle with both the accelerator and brake. Don’t use cruise control in wintery conditions. Don’t be overconfident in your four-wheel drive vehicle. Your car may get going quicker than others but it can’t stop faster. Four-wheel drive vehicles can lose traction as quickly as two wheel drive. The number one thing to do make sure you have an emergency supply kit in your car, because it could save your life.

Your kit should be kept in your back seat (in case your trunk is frozen shut) and should include: Blankets or sleeping bags; extra hats, socks, and mittens; flashlight with extra batteries; first-aid kit; shovel, booster cables, and windshield scraper; water and high-calorie non-perishable food (raisins, candy bars, energy/protein bars); sand or cat litter to use for traction; cell phone adapter.

It is also important to be prepared at home. Some of the dangers associated with winter storms include loss of heat, power, and telephone service, and a shortage of supplies. To help protect your family, now is the time to put together a disaster supply kit.

Here are some items to include: flashlights and extra batteries; battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a commercial radio; bottled water and non-perishable food that requires no cooking; first-aid supplies; fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector; if appropriate, extra medications and baby items; if you have an emergency heating source such as a fireplace or space heater, make sure you have proper ventilation; make sure pets have shelter and plenty of food and water

Know what to expect when the different warnings and watches are issued:

Winter Storm Watch – Winter storm conditions (heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain) are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Continue monitoring the weather forecast.

Winter Storm or Ice Storm Warning – A significant winter storm is occurring or will begin in the next 24 hours. The combination of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and moderate winds will impact travel and outdoor activities. An Ice Storm Warning is issued when mostly freezing rain is expected with ice accumulations of quarter-inch or more within a 12-hour period. Take necessary precautions – consider canceling travel plans.

Blizzard Warning – A dangerous storm with winds that are 35 mph or greater in combination with falling and/or blowing snow that reduces visibility to 1/4 mile or less for a duration of at least three hours.

Wind Chill Advisory – Issued for bitter cold wind chills.

Wind Chill Warning – Issued when frostbite is possible when outside for 10 minutes or less.

Keep Warm and Safe and know and watch for the signs:

Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear tips, or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical care immediately.

Hypothermia is a condition that develops when the body temperature drops below 95˚F. It is very deadly. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, disorientation, slurred speech, and drowsiness. Seek medical care immediately.

Overexertion is dangerous. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make an existing medical condition worse.

 

Pets also need extra care when the temperatures fall. They should be brought inside when the temperature reaches 30˚F with wind chill. Dogs and cats can get frost-bitten ears, nose, and feet if left outside during bitter cold weather. Chemicals used to melt snow and ice can also irritate pets’ paws – be sure to keep anti-freeze, salt, and other poisons away from pets.