So You Think You Are Ready For Another Montana Winter?
Such a magical time of year…clean, crisp innocent winter. HA HA HA! Oh don’t get me wrong…what’s more fun than a snowball fight with sons and grandsons or making snow angels in the snow with your daughters and granddaughters. But let’s not forget it’s COLD! We are not talking about the cold that forces us to wear long sleeves and pants again but the kind of cold that makes your nostrils stick together when you open your front door…the kind that creates icicles that hang from the tip of your nose…that’s a “Montana Winter”.
We Montanans have adapted over the years…we will joke about the temperatures and the depth of the snow and tell stories of years past….but we know what we are in for each year. We know that failing to respect the cold, snow and wind is no laughing matter. We have spent our lives here and know how to prepare…BUT…after last year’s mild winter, are we really ready if we get a “real Montana Winter”? If you are new to the area and haven’t experienced a Montana winter…do you know how to prepare?
It could be 50 above one day and 30 below with winds blowing just as fast the next…that day is not the day to think about preparing. Here are just a few things that we all need to remember:
Frostbite is serious…good outerwear should be the first thing you should purchase. Look for items that protect you to temps well below zero, wet snows and the wind…boots, coats, hats, gloves and snow pants. If you and your loved ones will be outside make sure they have protective wear that will cover all exposed skin. Have fun and enjoy the winter but know the warning signs of hypothermia and frostbite. For more information contact: www. Emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/faq.asp
Your home also needs attention prior to winter settling in…our “Montana Winters” last a while. Because your home will be the warm spot for you and your loved ones, make sure it is ready and safe. Everyone should have a working carbon monoxide and smoke detector. Any heater that uses a fuel source can give off the poisonous, undetectable gas. Do not make alterations to a heat source or use one that is not recommended for the task it is being used for. Make sure your doors and windows keep out the cold and wind…cover them if needed but keep in mind you may need them for an emergency exit. Make sure your pipes are exposed to warm air, wrapped with heat tape or remain dripping in extreme cold temperatures. Check your ventilation systems and keep the free of snow and ice. Keep your entrances and walk way free of snow and ice, falling in cold temperature and not being able to get up could cost a life. Keep survival supplies on hand…your home could be your shelter for a few days or more during one of our “Montana Winters”. For more specific information go to state of Montana at http://mdt.mt.gov/safety/ You can also download or order Montana Disaster & Emergency Survival Guide.
The temperatures will affect your vehicle… Get it winterized before winter starts. Install a block heater if it doesn’t have one, check your coolant levels and antifreeze, battery, tires, breaks, lights, and wipers. Switch to winter fuel if you drive a diesel or add an additive if you drive a gas vehicle each time you fill. Your vehicle could be your life line; make sure it is ready for a “Montana Winter”. Contact a vehicle service business to assure your vehicle is ready.
Driving ~ Always Buckle Up
Here are some tips from the National Safety Council for driving safely on icy roads:
1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
3. Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
4. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
5. Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
6. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
7. Keep your lights and windshield clean.
8. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
9. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.
10. Allow extra time to arrive at your destination.
If your rear wheels skid:
1. Take your foot off the accelerator.
2. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.
3. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
5. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse this is normal.
If your front wheels skid:
1. Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.
2. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.
Put together a winter survival kit for every vehicle:
1. NOAA Weather Radio
3. Extra Batteries
4. First aid kit
6. Season-Appropriate clothing
7. Whistle to signal for help
8. Basic tool kit, knife & shovel
9. Tow Chain or Straps
11. Kitty Litter or Sand
12. Booster Cables
14. Non-perishable, high energy food
Tell Someone Where You Are Going, Exact Route And When You Will Arrive……Never Leave Your Vehicle
Stay warm, Stay Safe, We will see you in the spring ~ Ok…we are here for you all year. If you have questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact Richland County Public Health Department at 406-433-2207. The Richland County Injury Prevention Team can work with businesses and their employees in helping educate on Winter Safety, Please contact Mary Friesz at the Richland County Health Department.