Weather Warnings - Safety Tips
By Robert Nason
North America is the Wild West when it comes to the world’s weather patterns. Weather is always a factor when traveling the roadways – from winter storms that leave thousands stranded on a highway to tornados that wipe out a town in a matter of minutes.
“The storm hit just moments after I passed through town,” recalls truck driver Bud Pennington, describing a close call with a tornado. “I went back through a few days later, but the little Kansas town I had seen earlier was gone.”
Needless to say, weather can create a number of challenges and dangers for professional and four-wheel drivers alike.
The No. 1 goal for any driver is to be prepared before starting a trip. The idea is to plan for the worst, and that means taking a few moments to make sure you have what you need in case of an emergency. Here are a few tips to help you prepare and react to some of the more extreme weather conditions.
Regardless of the season, there are some things everyone should have stored in their vehicle for the proverbial rainy day. These are the essentials, and it’s recommended these items stay in your vehicle year-round.
- Extra clothing and a blanket: Grab a duffle bag and fill it with an extra coat, socks, gloves and rain gear – basically a change of clothes for cold and hot conditions. Think layers and extreme temperature changes, like being stranded in a desert environment where it’s hot during the day but cold at night, and pack accordingly.
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- Flashlight and extra batteries
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- Food and water: Enough for at least a couple of days.
- First-aid kit: The Red Cross offers a complete list, so you can build it yourself, or there are several pre-made kits for sale.
- Jumper cables
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- Road flares
- Charged cell phone
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- Medications: If you need to take high blood-pressure pills every day, a few days’ supply will get you through most weather events.
The United States and Canada are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the number of tornadoes experienced each year. Another tornado season is just around the corner, so it’s appropriate to offer some survival tips if you see a tornado while on the road.
- If you see a tornado in the distance and have time, check emergency stations for the nearest designated shelter. Go there immediately.
- Monitor your CB and hear what drivers ahead are saying.
- If the tornado is close, do not stay in your truck. Get out and take cover in a low-lying area, like a ditch.
- Get as close to the ground as possible while protecting your head.
- Watch for flying debris. More people die from being struck by flying debris than by being pulled into the vortex.
- Keep a jacket and hat in your cab to protect you from rain or hail.
- Tornadoes sometimes look like they aren’t moving when they are. Don’t take the chance. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Extreme heat can take its toll on both your vehicle and your body. Being stranded in conditions hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement is not something anyone wants to experience without adequate preparation.
- Make sure your tires are inflated properly and check the performance of your vehicle’s battery before traveling in extreme heat.
- If stranded, stay hydrated and avoid caffeine. Try to conserve liquids to last for several days.
- Find shade and wear loose-fitting clothes.
- Recognize the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion (available at Ready.gov).
After this past winter, preparing for blizzard conditions takes on a whole new meaning around the country. Along with the year-round provisions, there are few other items and tips worth considering before heading out during the winter months.
- Bag of sand or salt
- Ice scraper
- Tire chains and traction mats
- If stranded, pull as far to the side of the road as possible and use hazard lights, flares or cones to warn oncoming vehicles of your presence.
- Try to stay with your vehicle unless you know shelter is close.
- Make sure your exhaust pipe is not blocked with snow.
- Run the engine and heater for 10 minutes every hour to keep your vehicle warm.
- Open one window slightly to allow for ventilation
- Recognize the signs of hypothermia (available at Ready.gov).
- Tell someone your itinerary. Knowledge of your intended destination can help rescuers narrow their search and find you sooner.
The Boy Scouts have a simple motto: Be prepared. We can’t all be MacGyver (he did after all save his friend’s life by fashioning a defibrillator out of candlesticks, microphone cord and a rubber mat). Being prepared is the key to any travel emergency. For a comprehensive list of safety tips while on the road, check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles or visit www.ready.gov.