TAYLOR COUNTY—The area saw the first flakes fall on Tuesday, and now is the perfect time to remind drivers of some simple practices that can help keep them safer this winter.
Through their annual observation of Winter Weather Awareness Week, celebrated this year from November 16-20, the National Weather Service in conjunction with Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia Division of Emergency Management is setting out to make sure folks are armed with tips and tricks to get them through this winter season.
“Winter weather can complicate an already challenging situation as we continue to battle COVID-19,” commented Thom Kirk, Emergency Management Acting Director. “West Virginians can take very basic steps that will ensure they’re prepared, such as winterizing their homes and vehicles and assembling an emergency kit.”
According to officials, one of the best ways to prepare for the winter ahead is by putting together a basic emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of food, water and medicine, along with the essential supplies your family will need in the event of a extended power outage.
More advice on what to include in an emergency kit for your family can be found at ready.gov/build-a-kit.
While the best idea is to just stay home during winter storms, sometimes that's not possible. Winterize your vehicle and keep an emergency kit in your car.
“It is not unusual for conditions to vary from no snow and clear driving in the valleys to piles of snow and treacherous travel conditions in the mountain,” noted Tony Edwards, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, WV. “Travelers should make sure to check the forecast and road conditions all along their route, not just their destination.”
Officials encourage drivers to check out wv511.org, to obtain information on traffic and road conditions.
According to Grafton Police Chief Robert Beltner, preparing your car for the colder months is very important.
“To help prevent an accident, drivers need to ensure that their vehicles are in proper working order,” Beltner noted.
AAA offered some suggestions to help ensure your car is road ready this winter.
Cold weather is hard on your vehicle’s battery, so AAA urges motorists to have their battery checked by a professional. According to Garrity, a AAA survey found that two-thirds of American drivers have never had their car battery proactively tested, but that a strong battery will get drivers through the winter months.
Winter brings about all kinds of precipitation, which can reduce visibility.
“Replacing worn windshield-wiper blades can help increase visibility,” shared Beltner. “Drivers are also encouraged to make sure your vehicle has plenty of cold-weather windshield washer solvent. In fact, we have already had one wreck attributed to the mix of below freezing temperatures and regular windshield washer fluid.”
Tires are where the rubber meets the road, literally. Making sure your tires are properly inflated can go a long way in the winter to ensure your vehicle has the best grip on the roadway as possible. Drivers will also want to make sure that their tires are not too worn and have a tread depth of at least 4/32 inch. Worn tires will make it harder to stop in slippery conditions.
Once drivers have safeguarded their vehicle against winter’s weather, there are some precautions that can be taken to help increase safety on the roadways.
“When driving, motorists need to increase the space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them,” Beltner shared. “Tailgating is never a smart option, but in the winter months when roads may be slippery, it makes matters even worse.”
Being aware of potential icy spots along your route is also a good idea.
“Most people travel the same path each day. Learn areas where water might collect and turn to ice with lower temperatures,” Beltner noted. “Keep in mind, there are always places where melting snow can run across the roadway, and should it refreeze, it could become a potential issue.”
Beltner voiced that one of the most important things a motorist can do to help prevent an accident is slow down.
“Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads, accelerating, stopping and turning,” Beltner revealed. “Give yourself time to maneuver by simply slowing down.”
He added that keeping a kit of emergency supplies and keeping your phone charged during the winter months is always a great idea.
“Kits can include items like flashlights, jumper cables, flares, and blankets,” Beltner commented. “If drivers are planning on a longer trip, they should consider packing food and water, along with any medications they may need.”
Should a wreck occur on snow covered or icy roads, Beltner urges drivers to stay inside their vehicle.
“The safest place you can be is inside your car, because other drivers could easily lose control of their vehicles and if inside, there will be a buffer between their vehicle and you,” he revealed. “Please remember, if it is really bad out, and you don’t have to be on the roads, just stay home.”
Additional preparedness information for Winter Weather Awareness Week can be found on the WVDHSEM website and on the ReadyWV! webpage.