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October 25, 2014

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Feature Story

Winter Weather Tips

WHAT TO DO IN WINTER--TIPS

Continue listening to local radio or television stations or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions. Access may be limited to some parts of the community or roads may be blocked.

·         Help a neighbor who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.

·         Avoid driving and other travel until conditions have improved. Roads may be blocked by snow or emergency vehicles.

·         Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of deaths during winter.

·         Follow forecasts and be prepared when venturing outside. Major winter storms are often followed by even colder conditions.

Winter Driving

·         Have your car(s) winterized before the winter storm season. Keeping your car(s) in good condition will decrease your chance of being stranded in cold weather. Have a mechanic check your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster, and oil level. If necessary, replace existing oil with a winter grade oil. Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.

·         If you have a cell phone or two-way radio available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling in winter weather. If you should become stranded, you will be able to call for help, advising rescuers of your location.

·         Keep a windshield scraper and small broom in your car for ice and snow removal.

·         Put together a separate disaster supplies kit for the trunk of each car used by members of your household. You should also bring a thermos of warm broth if you are on the road during a winter storm. If you should become stranded during a winter storm, these items will make you more comfortable until the storm passes. The kit should include the following:

o        Several blankets or sleeping bags.

o        Rain gear and extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks, and a wool cap.

o        Extra newspapers for insulation.

o        Plastic bags for sanitation.

o        Canned fruit, nuts, and high energy "munchies." Non-electric can opener if necessary.

o        Several bottles of water. Eating snow will lower your body temperature. If necessary, melt it first.

o        Cans of broth or soup.

o        A small shovel, a pocket knife, and small tools, such as pliers, a wrench, and screwdriver.

o        A small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels, a set of tire chains or traction mats.

o        Jumper cables.

o        A first aid kit and necessary medications.

o        A flashlight with extra batteries.

o        A candle in a metal can or other fireproof container. While candles are generally not recommended in disaster situations, having one in your car can be a source of heat and light if you are stranded.

o        Matches.

o        Cards, games, and puzzles.

o        A brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna.

·         Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.

·         Plan long trips carefully. Traveling during winter weather can be hazardous. Listen to the radio or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions. Plan to travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person.

·         Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

·         Be aware of sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and dense fog, which can make driving very hazardous. The leading cause of death during winter storms is from automobile or other transportation accidents. During winter weather conditions, multiple vehicle accidents are more likely to occur, resulting in injury and death. Avoid driving during sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and dense fog--these serious conditions are often underestimated.

·         If you do get stuck:

o        Stay with your vehicle. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. Disorientation and confusion come very quickly in blowing snow. Avoid traveling during winter storms. If you must travel and do become stranded, it is better to stay in the vehicle and wait for help.

o        Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood (after snow stops falling).

o        Occasionally run engine to keep warm. Carbon monoxide can build up inside a standing vehicle while the engine is running, even if the exhaust pipe is clear. Experience has shown that running the heater for 10 minutes every hour is enough to keep occupants warm and will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as well as to conserve fuel. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or 5 minutes every half hour). Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.

o        Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.

o        Do minor exercises to keep up circulation. Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long.

o        If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping. One of the first signs of hypothermia is sleepiness. If you are not awakened periodically to increase body temperature and circulation, you can freeze to death.

o        Huddle together for warmth.

o        Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation. Layering items will help trap more body heat.

o        Keep a window that is away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.

o        Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Severe cold can cause numbness, making you unaware of possible danger. Keep fingers and toes moving for circulation, huddle together, and drink warm broth to reduce risk of further injury.

o        Drink fluids to avoid dehydration. Bulky winter clothing can cause you to sweat, but cold dry air will help the sweat evaporate, making you unaware of possible dehydration. When individuals are dehydrated, they are more susceptible to the effects of cold and heart attacks. Melt snow before using it for drinking water. Eating snow lowers your body temperature, increasing risk from hypothermia.

o        Avoid overexertion. 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 other medical conditions worse.

What to Tell Children

·         The best way to stay safe in a snowstorm is to stay inside. Long periods of exposure to severe cold increases the risk of frostbite or hypothermia. Also, it is easy to become disoriented in blowing snow.

·         If you go outside to play after a snowstorm, dress in many layers and wear a hat and mittens. Many layers of thin clothing are warmer than single layers of thick clothing. One of the best ways to stay warm is to wear a hat; most body heat is lost through the top of the head. Keep hands and feet warm too. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Covering the mouth with a scarf protects lungs from extremely cold air.

·         Come inside often for warm-up breaks. Long periods of exposure severe cold increases the risk of frostbite or hypothermia.

·         If you start to shiver a lot or get very tired, or if your nose, fingers, toes, or earlobes start to feel numb or turn very pale, come inside right away and tell an adult. These are signs of hypothermia and frostbite. If you experience these symptoms, you will need immediate attention to prevent further risk.


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