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Get your car and home ready for winter posted on 12/01/2018

Lieutenant Phil Burks of the Hoodland Fire District (HFD) noted that one winter, temperatures hovered around 20 below zero for a couple weeks, putting people and their vehicles to the test.

“That was brutal,” Burks said. “We don’t get that cold most often. It’s hard on everything.”

With this winter’s chill now on the horizon, Burks and Senior Firefighter Evan Jarvis offered some good tips to be prepared for the cold, snow and ice.

The first tip: check your tires and try putting chains on them now, well ahead of when you may need to use them. Burks noted that winter rated tires will have a snowflake embossed on the side, offering more grip in the snow.

He recommended putting chains on in a parking lot with good lighting as a practice run, while adding that cars with front wheel drive should have the chains on the front tires. And make sure that the number matches the tire, as not all chains fit all tires.

“When you’re running winter tires, because of the higher tread, sometimes the chains won’t fit,” Burks said.

He added that windshield wiper fluid can freeze in the winter, unless it is rated for the cold weather, and to make the switch before it becomes a problem.

“It’s easy to forget,” he said, noting that windshield wipers might need replacing after the hot summer and radiator fluid should also be checked.

Mountain drivers and visitors should also be prepared by carrying flares (traditional flares can go bad, electronic ones are also available), blankets, hats, gloves, water, food, traction aids (such as kitty litter) and any medication that might be needed if people get stranded. And a small tarp comes in handy to use while putting on those chains.

Jarvis added that drivers should drive slower in slippery conditions and leave more room between themselves and other cars. And even if the road is clear, patches of black ice can form in shadowed areas and other places, causing dangerous situations for cars going too fast.

“Go slow,” Jarvis said. “That's the one thing we find, is that people are going way too fast.”

Burks also noted that drivers are required to slow down or move over if a vehicle is on the side of the road.

“That’ll help keep everybody safer,” he said, adding that drivers who fail to perform this duty could be subject to a ticket.

Jarvis added that drivers who are heading for a longer trip should be sure to start with a full tank of gas, while owners of small cars should check to see if their vehicle has tow points. If not, keys that can screw into a bumper can be purchased to help pull a vehicle out of the snow if needed.

Anybody going outside should keep an eye on the weather and dress in layers, while travelers should also keep in mind that if conditions warrant, they can always turn around and go back instead of continuing on in a dangerous situation.

Meanwhile, Jarvis added that people can prepare for winter at home by having a 72-hour kit, including enough food, water, pet food and medication in case no assistance is available for a few days during a storm. Keeping extra wood handy for a wood stove is also recommended, as people may need to cook food without electricity.

For more information on driving conditions, visit the Oregon Department of Transportation’s website, tripcheck.com.

By Garth Guibord/MT




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