Winter Tips and Tricks

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Winter in the Midwest is notoriously nasty.

Between polar vortexes that drop temps to -50°, ice coating roads and sidewalks, and white-out conditions, it pays to know some tricks and safety measures.

Little is it known that cold actually kills more people than heat does.

After I talked with a student from California, I learned some life-saving winter procedures are not common knowledge.

Here’s what advice comes to my mind as winter begins:

If your car breaks down on the roadside in winter for any reason, do not walk away from it.

A gas station may be only a mile away, but frostbite is closer.

According to the National Weather Service, at temperatures between -20° and -30°, with five mph winds, frostbite can set in in half an hour or less.

Between -25° and -35°, with wind speeds of 10 mph, frostbite can set in after 10 minutes.

If it gets down to -40°, and the wind is 15 mph or more, it can set in after two to five minutes. 

Your car is insulated.

For a while, lingering heat from the engine will keep the car relatively warm.

It won’t be comfortable, but it won’t be -40°.

Just sit tight and call someone.

If you’re in an area with no reception, turn on your hazard lights and wait for help.

Stay inside of your car as much as possible.

A car is also easier to see than a person, especially in white-out conditions.

Given that you need to be seen in order to be assisted, that’s just another reason to stay in your car.

Pack a small emergency box to keep in your car at all times.

At minimum, include blankets, portable hazard flashers and a candle.

In such an emergency, you can put a candle in the cup holder for light and warmth – but of course be very wary of fire hazards. 

This kind of situation may be a rare occurrence, but it’s always a risk in winter, especially for long distance drivers.

This of course includes Illinois Wesleyan students who regularly make trips home in the winter.

Please take the steps needed to be prepared and stay safe.