Unless your name is Frosty or Elsa, moving through ice and snow isn’t a natural thing. And if you live in Texas, it’s a downright unnatural thing. Heck, we can barely get around in the rain, let alone the wet stuff when it freezes. On top of that, we have this mysterious substance called black ice, which appears not to exist until you’re sliding across it.
So how do North Texans stay safe when temperatures drop and roads and walkways freeze? Practice our 3 Ps for personal and automotive safety, and you’ll be ready for the fun activities that winter brings!
We all know the fickle Texas weather can be 80 degrees one day and below freezing the next. Planning ahead for possible contingencies can save time, money and maybe even a life. Here’s how:
- Check the weather before you go.
- If you decide it’s safe, locate the best route and share your itinerary with someone.
- Dress accordingly. It’s easier to remove gloves or a hat than to wish you had them. Warm, waterproof shoes are essential for walking in snow or slush.
- Give the battery in your phone a full charge before leaving and make sure you have a car charger.
- Warm up the car and de-ice the windows, but never leave a vehicle running in a closed garage or an open attached garage. You can purchase de-icing spray at auto parts stores or create your own pre- and post-ice fix-its, such as covering the windshield with an old towel, blanket, tarp or piece of cardboard before the storm.
- If your car becomes stuck, try this trick to get some traction: Take out your floor mats, turn them upside down (so you don’t get tire rubber on the carpet) and place them in front of and under the drive wheels.
- If you’re still stuck and in an unfamiliar area or can’t see help within 100 yards, don’t leave your car. What you can do: Hang a bright cloth on the radio antenna, raise your hood, run the engine (and heater and dome light) for about 10 minutes each hour after making sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow and other debris to avoid carbon-monoxide poisoning.
The best plan is worthless unless it’s put into action, and that can only be done through thoughtful preparation. Follow these tips to help you and your family prepare for winter.
- Save time and the hassle of
looking for misplaced gloves by placing a pair in the pocket of each winter jacket and coat.
- Each family member should have at least one pair of waterproof shoes with nonslip soles.
- Keep your walkways and sidewalks clear of ice and snow. If shoveling isn’t an option, heat and dissolve a quarter cup of rock or table salt per quart of water and pour it over icy steps and walkways. You can also use coffee grounds or cat litter to provide traction.
- Have a mechanic check all vital car systems and tires and put in fresh antifreeze. Purchase or rent chains if needed.
- Fill up your gas tank before starting your trip.
- Outfit your car with an ice scraper and an emergency survival preparedness kit, which could include blankets, water, energy bars, an emergency flashlight, flares, a whistle, extra clothing, a first-aid kit, jumper cables, a gas can, extra antifreeze and other necessary items.
It’s hard to be patient when you’re scrambling to get the kids in their snow gear or setting off for that long winter drive to grandma’s house. But this is the step that will really pay off and allow everyone to stay safe and secure this winter.
Have the patience to:
- Complete all the planning and preparation steps above.
- Wait to go out until the storm is over or conditions improve.
- Change into shoes or boots with nonslip rubber or neoprene soles.
- Choose a safer route for walking or driving, even if it’s longer. Walk in designated walkways whenever possible, but if they are unsafe, walk in grassy areas instead.
- Scrape or de-ice the windows of your car so you can see clearly out of them.
- Assume all wet, dark areas on roads and pavement are slippery and icy. Watch out for black ice!
If there is ice.
- Walk and drive more slowly than normal.
- When walking on ice, shuffle like a penguin, taking short steps with feet spread out slightly. This increases your center of gravity
- Avoid steps and stairs if possible. If not, use handrails and make several trips if carrying items so you have a free hand to hold on with.
- If you find yourself driving on ice, start braking before you normally would, gently pump brakes to avoid skidding (ABS brakes will do the work for you) and accelerate gently when taking off.
- To steer out of a skid, take your foot off the accelerator to slow your car and regain traction, then gently steer in the direction you want to go and accelerate slowly.
- Front-wheel drive (FWD) generally has the advantage over rear-wheel drive (RWD) in ice and snow because the weight of the engine is over the drive wheels, creating added friction. If your RWD car is stuck, try reversing until you hit pavement. For both types, try turning the wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way, rock the vehicle gently or shift from forward to reverse and back again.
If you fall.
Following the 3 Ps to the letter will greatly reduce your risk of face-planting into a snowbank … or worse. But if you do, these tips will lessen the chance you’ll be injured.
- Wear bulky clothes, like a big, heavy coat, to help cushion your fall.
- Avoid landing on your knees, hands and wrists, or spine. Instead, fall on your side.
- Relax your muscles and roll into the fall, tucking your arms and legs into a ball.
- Call 911 or go straight to your local ER if you hit your head; are dizzy, nauseated or vomiting; experience swelling, redness or weakness; or are unable to move all or part of your body.
When there’s ice and snow, take it slow. But if you or someone in your family gets injured, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you.