At Home: Prepare for unpredictable wintry weather

Take precautions when shoveling; keep weather kit in car

Mother Nature can be unpredictable, especially in Kansas during the winter months. One day can be sunny and warm, and the next cold and icy.

 

That’s why it’s a good idea to be prepared for clearing snow from sidewalks and driveways and driving in cold temperatures.

Snow clearing tips

One of the more common causes of back injuries during winter is snow removal, which can put undue stress on the spine and lead to muscle strains and falls, according to information compiled by Menards. However, many injuries can be prevented if a few precautions are taken:

— Warm up muscles before you start shoveling.

— Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids to stave off dehydration.

— Use a shovel that’s comfortable for your height and strength. Don’t use a shovel that’s too long or too heavy.

— If possible, push the snow off sidewalks and driveways rather than lifting and tossing it. Don’t throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side, because the twisting motion required can add stress to the back.

Menards also says residents need to be cautious when using snow blowers, which can be more dangerous than shoveling. In addition to reading the user manual and labels on the machine, the home improvement company recommends:

— Never stick your hands in the snow blower. If snow jams the snow blower, turn it off and use a solid object to clear the wet snow debris from the chute. Beware of the brief recoil of the motor and blades that occurs after the snow blower is turned off.

— Don’t leave the snow blower unattended when it’s running.

— Don’t add fuel when the snow blower is on or hot.

— Stay away from the engine, which can be hot and cause burns to unprotected skin.

— When operating an electric snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.

To remove ice from driveways and sidewalks, use ice melt and all-purpose sand, which can add traction to the surfaces, according to Menards. Ice chippers also work well.

Safe on the roads

Because winter weather and driving conditions can be unpredictable, Mary Knapp, a climatologist who works in Kansas State University’s Weather Data Library, recommends drivers carry a winter weather kit in the trunk of their cars.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Association suggests a winter weather kit include:

— Shovel.

— Windshield scrapper.

— Flashlight.

— Battery-powered radio.

— Extra batteries.

— Water and snack food.

— Hats and mittens.

— Tow chain or rope.

— Road salt or sand for traction.

— Jumper cables.

— Emergency flares and a fluorescent distress flag.

“In addition, they recommend having an empty metal coffee can and candles and matches,” Knapp said. “You can use that as an alternative heating source if you can’t keep your engine running.”

All of the items in a winter weather kit should be stored in the car, except the water.

“Don’t keep water as part of your kit,” she said. “In this kind of weather, it’s likely to freeze solid, and if you do run into difficulties, trying to melt that bottle of water when you’re already stressed and stranded is not a good idea.

“The last thing you can do as you’re leaving the house is to grab a bottle of water or fill your reusable water bottle, so that it’s a liquid, not ice.”

Knapp said drivers should make sure their car’s maintenance is up to date, including antifreeze levels, wiper fluid with de-icer, windshield wipers, tires with good tread and battery strength.

Before heading out on the road, check the weather forecast for the route being taken to see if more time needs to be allowed for traveling.

Also, let others know when you’re leaving and the route being taken so if problems arise they know where to look for you.

“In the modern era, you want to make sure your cell phone is charged, and you may want to have an extra power source for that cell phone, so that if you are stranded, you can power that up,” Knapp said. “A charging cable that can run off your battery would be a good thing to throw in your kit.”

 

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