Winter weather awareness
 

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posted Friday, November 30, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 48

Winter weather awareness
Safety tips for vehicle owners

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

People always talk about the weather. I think that's because it's an easy subject to talk about. Take today (November 14), for instance. As I was walking up Madison from 18th toward Capitol Hill I couldn't help but think, 'It's not too cold today. And the sun is shining through the clouds.' Each bus stop I passed by along the early morning trek, I heard someone say almost those exact words: 'Sun's out.' 'Not too cold.'

We talk about the weather because it is something that, stranger or lifelong friend, we all experience together. And when the weather gets tough (most recently Hurricane Sandy) we suffer, survive, and rebuild - together.

So now (you guessed it!) I'm going to talk about the weather some more.

The leaves have changed, and now they are falling. Winter has crept its way back into Seattle and as any experienced Pacific Northwest resident will tell you, 'Here comes the rain again.' But this year, we might be singing a different tune. According to AccuWeather, a private weather company in State College, Philadelphia, a below-normal snowfall season is expected across the Northwest.

Seattle will get hit by 'clipper systems,' which, according to AccuWeather, 'typically are not the big snow producers.'

The low amount of snowfall will result in warmer-than-normal temperatures in these areas, experts say.

Well, as a self-described 'weather expert,' I can tell you what you already know and that is you can't predict the weather in this part of the country. Well, you can't do it accurately, anyway. I predict cold temperatures, lots of rain, and a couple of really irritating snow days. Basically, business as usual.

Want to stay safe, keep warm, and not spend Christmas in the hospital because you failed to winterize your vehicle? Get a tune-up and be sure to check your battery. Consider buying snow tires or tire chains, as your travel dictates. Chains work best on glare ice, but be sure to check with local authorities on their use. Some locales prohibit them.

OTHER VEHICLE CARE TIPS:
o Check radiator coolant and sturdiness of hoses and belts

o Refer to the vehicle's manual to see if lighter-grade oil is recommended for winter driving

o Change burned out headlights, taillights, and turn signals

o Check tire tread and wear - minimum tread is 1/16 inch for adequate traction

o Make sure brakes are in proper working order

o Keep spare windshield-washer fluid in the trunk and make sure the washer blades are in good working condition.

Also, prepare a winter emergency kit for your vehicle. Supplies should include:

o At least two blankets or a sleeping bag

o Flashlight or battery-powered lantern and extra batteries

o Booster (jumper) cables

o Emergency flares

o Extra clothing - particularly boots, hats, and mittens

o Steel shovel, and rope to use as a lifeline

o Bottled water or juice and nonperishable high-energy foods (granola bars, raisins, nuts, peanut butter or cheese crackers)

o First-aid kit and necessary medications

o Sand or non-clumping cat litter for tire traction, in case your vehicle gets stuck in snow or ice

o Cell phone and car charger

WINTER-WISE DRIVING TIPS
o Pay attention to weather reports on the radio. Allow time in your schedule for bad weather and/or traffic delays.

o Become familiar with your vehicle's winter weather operating characteristics. Front-wheel-drive vehicles generally handle better than rear-wheel vehicles on slippery roads because the weight of the engine is on the drive wheels, improving traction.

o Keep your windows clear of snow and ice. Remember to clean head, tail, and brake lights.

o If you need to turn on your wipers, turn on your headlights also.

o To prevent fuel line freeze-up, keep your gas tank at least half full. Fill your tank before parking your vehicle for long periods.

o Leave ample stopping time between you and the driver in front of you. Braking distance can be up to nine times greater on snowy, icy surfaces than on dry roads.

o If your vehicle is equipped with an antilock braking system (ABS), be sure to: STOMP - firmly depress the brake pedal; STAY on the brakes - do not pump them; and STEER where you want the vehicle to go.

o Gently pump non-ABS brakes to stop the vehicle. Take any corrective action gradually. You need to maintain full control of the vehicle. Refer to the vehicle operations manual for proper methods to correct skids.

o During winter travel, it is best to supply those at your destination with your cell-phone number, departure time, travel route, and anticipated arrival time.

o Lock your vehicle, even in bad weather. If locks freeze, heat the key. Do not pour hot water on a frozen lock - it will refreeze.

o Drive with extreme caution on bridges and overpasses during freezing temperatures. Because bridge temperatures can be 5-6 degrees colder than surface roadways, they can become slick and icy before other roads do.

o Stay with your vehicle while warming it up. An unattended, running car invites theft.

SURVIVAL TIPS IF STRANDED
The best advice is to remain with your vehicle. If nothing else, you are guaranteed shelter. Other helpful tips include:

o Tie a bright-colored cloth (handkerchief, towel, etc.) to the vehicle's antenna, driver door handle, or outside mirror.

o Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow. Poisonous gases can filter into the vehicle if the pipe is clogged.

o Run the engine and heater no more than 10 minutes every hour, leaving a downwind window slightly open for ventilation while the engine is running.

o Light a flare or turn on a flashlight to let others know you're stranded in the vehicle.

o Use floor mats, seat covers and blankets for added warmth. If you must leave your vehicle during a severe snowstorm or blizzard, secure a line of rope or cord to yourself and the vehicle to avoid becoming lost or disoriented.

o Keep bottled water in your emergency kit or vehicle. Never eat snow. It will chill you and lower your body temperature.

o Above all, remain calm. Your chances for rescue are better if you remain calm and in your vehicle.



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