Category Archives: Blizzard

Get Your Family Ready for Freezing Weather

Winter gearWeather.com is reporting that it’s about to get Arctic cold for most of the US, particularly the East and Midwest.

Here are some of our tips on getting the family as ready as possible for the cold blast:

  1. Plan Ahead:
    Have extra blankets on hand and if possible, make sure everyone has:
    – warm coat
    – gloves or mittens
    – warm socks
    – hat
    – water-resistant boots
  2. Emergency response and school closings
    Know the emergency response plan for your workplace, each child’s school or daycare center, as well as other places where your family spends time.
  3. Basic house knowledge
    Make sure your older family members know basic first aid and house skills (how to turn off the house water, gas and electricity at the main valves or switches.)

And, listen to your local weather forecaster and read through the following tips to keep your family warm in winter weather.

More details at: Getting Your Family Ready for Winter.

Snow Plow Drivers Share Driving Tips

We talked with snow plow drivers and auto technicians across the country – they see it happen and fix your car after that snow-induced spin-out. Here’s their advice:

  1. To avoid getting your car towed or plowed in, review the parking restrictions and plowing routes for your city. You may need to move your car.
  2. If you must drive, clear the snow off of your windshield, windows, mirrors, headlights and brake lights (no one can see covered brake lights!).
  3. Make sure your wipers and headlights are turned on.
  4. Be patient – don’t rush! Remember, everyone else will be running late, too.
  5. Drive for the conditions. Go well below the speed limit – ice, heavy snow, traffic and poor visibility will require longer following and stopping distances (allow at least 8 to 10 seconds for stopping).
  6. If you do come across a snow plow or sand truck, drive slowly and give them the right of way.
    • Leave plenty of room for stopping (at least 150 ft.) and pay attention to the snow plow.
    • Snow plows and sand trucks may stop, back up or turn around suddenly.

Need more advice – visit our Blizzard section here.

Don’t Freeze Your Dog

In light of the sub-freezing temps around the country, we’re re-posting advice about dogs and cold weather.

Im ready to come inside

I’m ready to come inside

In January, 2009, we spoke to Dr. Eric Ruhland, a veterinarian from Hastings, Minnesota, (current temp today: 1, feels like -12) and asked him about his guidelines for keeping dogs safe in this frigid weather.

1. Small Dogs (under 20 pounds, up to 50)

Smaller breeds get colder faster. Keep them outdoors no more that five minutes.

Why? Small dogs, like Yorkies, have a larger surface to volume ratio – which means more surface area and smaller bodies (the opposite of an elephant which has a lot of volume).

2. Large Dogs (over 50 pounds)

Larger dogs, like German Shepherds, can be outside up to 10 minutes in this freezing weather.

3. An Outdoor Dog?

If you have a dog that’s always outside no matter what, they need an enclosed area of an enclosed exclusion from the elements that has at least six inches of bedding. There are laws in every state for keeping a dog safe and outdoors. As an example, here is Minnesota’s law.

4. For All Dogs

For all dogs, watch for frostbite. Dr. Ruhland says there are several areas to be concerned about:

  • Noses (they are wet and can easily freeze)
  • The inside back of the thighs (almost no hair!)
  • The insides of ears
  • Ear tips

And Dr. Ruhland’s rule of thumb? If you think it’s cold outside, so does your dog.

Thanks Dr. Ruhland!

– Susan

Snow in the Southwest

Here in Minnesota, we drive on ice and snow most winters (OK, not this one, a reprieve after last year’s mammoth storms). We were reading through the weather report (yes, that’s what we do) and have some tips for the Southwest pulled from a larger article on driving in snow.

  1. If you must drive, clear off your windshield, windows, mirrors, headlights and brake lights (no one can see covered snow or ice covered brake lights).
  2. Make sure your wipers and headlights are turned on.
  3. Be patient – don’t rush! Remember, everyone else will be running late, too!
  4. Drive for the conditions. Go well below the speed limit – ice, snow, traffic and poor visibility will require longer following and stopping distances (allow at least 8 to 10 seconds for stopping).
  5. If you do come across a snow plow or sand truck, don’t panic, drive slowly and give them the right of way.
    • Drive slow, leave plenty of room for stopping distance (at least 150 ft.) and pay attention to the snow plow and what it is doing.
    • Snow plows and sand trucks may stop, back up or turn around suddenly
  6. Stay in the inside lane (the one furthest away from the curb) on multi-lane roads. Single lane road? Drive closer to the middle of the road. Why? Snow tends to drift and pile up on to the sides of the road.
  7. Drive in tire tracks that have already been established.
  8. Don’t changes lanes unless it’s necessary – you could catch a wheel in the heavy snow or an ice patch and lose control.
  9. Watch out for black ice. Black ice is common under bridges and overpasses. It’s called black ice because it’s dark and hard to see.
  10. If you need to make an emergency stop, don’t pump the brakes if your car has an Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS). When you release the brake, your car’s brake system will turn off and on.
  11. If you are stranded or stuck in a snowbank, do the following:
    • Using the shovel in your winter car emergency kit, clear away the snow from around the tires, under the car and near the exhaust.
    • If you have sand in your car, scatter it around the front tires (for front-wheel drive cars) or around the rear-tires (for rear-wheel drive cars).
    • Put the car in a low gear and go SLOW – do not spin the tires! This could ruin your clutch or transmission and create ice under your tires.
    • If the situation allows (and it’s safe), try to slowly “rock” the car back and forth to build a small amount of momentum.
    • Call roadside assistance if you are unable to free the car.

Good luck during this holiday travel week!!

– Susan

Blizzard Coming? 2 Things to Remember

When a blizzard or winter storm warning is in the forecast, it’s a good thing to know the emergency response plan for your workplace, your children’s school or child care center, as well as other places where your family spends time (i.e. church, gym, rec center).

If you need to go get a child, friend or family member, be sure your car emergency kit is ready. Include water, first aid, and a way to signal need for help, flashlight & batteries, warm blankets, a shovel, and a battery-operated radio.

More here.

Slippery sidewalks? De-ice the green way

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has a nifty monthly newsletter – and this month is particularly helpful if you are dealing with icy sidewalks (and save you lucky folks in Miami, who isn’t dealing with this?!)

Here’s what they have to share:

De-icing salts can damage the plants along your sidewalk and street. These salts also wash away with melted snow and flow into our lakes and rivers. What to do?

Preventing ice is the best way to reduce the impact of salts:

  • Shovel sidewalks as soon as possible after a snowfall.
  • Deposit snow in a location where it won’t cause future problems during melting/refreezing.
  • Remove slush and soft snow on warm days.
  • Fix rain gutter leaks and direct downspouts away from sidewalks and driveways.

Choose a nicer de-icer. Even the best scrapers and chippers may face an ice problem. Use a de-icer to lower the freezing temperature of the water, causing the ice to break apart. Choices you’ll see at the local hardware store:

  • Salts—sodium chloride, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, or magnesium chloride—are toxic to plants, trees, and waterways. One teaspoon of salt can contaminate 5 gallons of water forever, so use as little as you need to get the job done.
  • Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) and other acetate de-icers are salt-free, have a low toxicity, and are biodegradable. They do, however, contribute excess nutrients to our waterways and must be applied appropriately.

De-icers aren’t for melting away every bit of snow and ice. Use enough to break the ice away from the pavement, then shovel away the remaining slush. See the MPCA’s Sidewalk Maintenance Manual for further information.

– Thanks MPCA!

Nine Fine Winter Car Care Tips

No one wants to talk about winter, but it’s October and it’s snowing North of the Mason Dixon line so here we go….

Here are nine fine winter car care tips – after all, October is National Car Care month.

  1. Check your tire pressure monthly (regardless of the season!). Don’t know how? Read your car’s manual or ask your auto technician.
  2. Do not check tire pressure if the temperature is below freezing, says the Car Coach and expert mechanic, Lauren Fix.  Why? Humidity can cause the air to freeze in the valve stem in the tire which will not allow you to add any additional air. Instead the air will leak out. Have a professional check the pressure for you.
  3. Tire tread controls the grip or friction between your car and the road – without it you can slide around and easily end up in the ditch (or worse – banged into another car), says Aymee Ruiz, a spokesperson with AAA. Ask your auto technician about your tires and evaluate the tread.
  4. Consider a different set of tires, specifically snow tires, for winter.
  5. Keep operational fluids at a full level (gas, oil, antifreeze, windshield fluid, etc.), says Lauren Fix. Why? Cold temps may cause some parts to overcompensate and work harder than usual – they’ll need the extra fluids to help maintain their usual exertion levels.
  6. Your battery needs to be fully charged for cold-weather starts.
  7. If you haven’t replaced your battery in at least five years, have it checked by a professional – it may need to be changed, says Fix.
  8. Add winter weather items to your car’s emergency kit (snow scraper, shovel, sand, extra antifreeze, jumper cables, tow rope, etc.) – they’ll come in handy if you run into car trouble.
  9. Follow your regular car maintenance schedule to keep an eye out for potential problems. Ask your auto technician about specific things to watch out for regarding your car.

Stay warm and drive carefully –

– Susan

FEMA and WHN Offer Sound Advice about Surviving a Disaster

Tornado season is in full swing for parts of the country. Other natural disasters have been reported throughout the nation. Being prepared can make the difference between safely weathering the storm and becoming a victim of the disaster!

  • WHN TIP: Click here for a comprehensive list of natural disasters, preparedness, survival and rebuilding provided by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If you find this site challenging to navigate, visit the Natural Disasters section right here on the WHN website for advice, helpful links and forms to complete.

If you don’t already have a weather alert radio, this would be the perfect time to purchase one.  You can do a simple Google search for “weather alert radios” options and detailed explanations about the different types. You can also try a consumer search site for reviews and ratings of different models.

A good friend of a WHN reporter experienced a tornado firsthand during Memorial Day weekend in 2008. She was home alone in Hugo, MN when the EF-3 tornado with wind gusts of 136 to 165 mph hit the city. The tornado struck at about 5:30 p.m. on the Sunday of Memorial weekend, May 25, 2008 and tore a mile-long swath through a residential area. About 675 homes were damaged and 60 of those were deemed uninhabitable. (One 2-year-old child was killed. His sister, just five years old, was severely injured and still requires a wheelchair a year later.)

Our friend was in a townhouse complex with seven units, none of which have basements. She didn’t have a weather radio or a concrete plan outlining the best course of action. Luckily, when she noticed that the water in the toilet was splashing wildly, her first instinct was to get to the lower level and into a secure corner. The combined weight of the attached homes helped anchor them against the tremendous force of the winds. Her recount of the experience included the usual “it sounded like a freight train” and “I could hear deafening sounds of buildings being destroyed”.

After the storm had passed, she surveyed the damage to her home. Baseball-sized hail had crushed the master bedroom window and the floor was covered with huge ice chunks. Siding blew off some of the units, but the townhouses suffered little more than window and outside damage, even though nearby blocks were all but destroyed.

She used her cell phone to keep in touch with her parents in another city during the storm, but had to hang up during the worst of it due to the extraordinary amount of noise. She didn’t sustain any injuries.

Due to the holiday weekend, many families were away. This twist of fate proved to be a major factor in reducing the number of injuries and fatalities.

A year after the disaster, according to Hugo city officials, two of the ruined homes still have damage and three or four lots remain vacant and are on the market. The rest of the homes have been restored.

  • WHN TIP: Officials in cities with siren warning systems often remind residents that the sirens may not be audible inside a dwelling. Advisories may be broadcast many hours before a storm and should be your first warning to go through your survival plan. Conducting drills with your family is a great way to ensure everyone knows what to do in the event of a storm, especially if it arrives with little or no warning.

Review your plan while the weather is beautiful.  Your time will be well spent!

If you have questions or would like to share your experiences, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Ice Storms Often Mean No Power

Hey, playing poker is kind of fun! Have younger kids? Play Go Fish or Crazy 8s
Hey - Poker is fun! Have younger kids? Try Crazy 8s or Go Fish

In the past 24 hours, ice storms have moved through teh Midwest to he Northweat, cutting power in many states including Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma.

School has been cancelled in many areas (trust me, a joy to children everywhere) and even businesses are calling it a day.

If you’re home with kids and have no power, they’ll realize they can’t watch TV, turn on the radio, or play on the computer. Plus, that phone will need to be charged soon…but where?

If you need some ideas to keep the kids busy – look at this Kids Emergency Entertainment article.  It’s ideas, games and activities from moms and dads who had to keep their kids busy after Hurricane Katrina, as well as teachers who strive to keep everyone as smart as possible. They can be adapted to almost any age, though you’ll some make more sense for younger kids.

For those moms and dads who are not at home with kids, trapped by ice and snow, here is a terrific round-up of 50 of the best mom blogs to keep track of. All are listed on OnTeensToday by Vanessa Van Patten.

Stay warm and entertained,

– Susan

ps – need ideas on how to keep that house safe and warm? Go here.