Winter storm tips
By mid afternoon Thursday, AAA had received just under 250 calls for service. Roughly 60 percent were for slide-offs or cars that were stuck, requiring winch-outs or towing. An additional 25 percent were responses to accidents. As Kansas begins to recover from blizzard conditions AAA urges residents to heed the advice of the Emergency Management Officials.
Once the travel situation improves:
• Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow or ice. A blocked vehicle exhaust pipe could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
• Clear your vehicle and driveway of snow and ice. State law requires non-commercial vehicles to be clear of icy elements before hitting the road. Not clearing driveways may prevent emergency personnel from reaching those in need.
• Observe road closure orders. Do not attempt to drive on closed roads. Stay tuned to local media outlets and government agency updates regarding restricted roads and closures, storm damage, and emergency relief efforts.
• Increase following distance to 8-10 seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
• Know your brakes. If your vehicle is not equipped with an antilock braking system, pump the brakes. If the vehicle has ABS, don’t pump, but break with firm pressure.
• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Reduced traction causes simple maneuvers, such as accelerating, stopping, and turning, to take longer on snow-covered roads.
• Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads causes wheels to spin. As you reach the crest of a hill, reduce speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
We want to remind motorists to be prepared, and adjust their driving behavior for road conditions. Always wear your seat belt, and if you’re caught behind the wheel during inclement weather, adjust your driving by doing the following:
• Keep gas tank full – don’t let the tank get below half empty.
• Slow down! Rain or snow and ice cause roads to get slippery.
• Keep a safe distance. If you are driving in wet or snowy conditions, give yourself at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
• Brake gently to avoid skidding, and use low gears to avoid losing traction.
• Avoid passing plows unless necessary
• Use major routes that have been cleared or salted whenever possible
• Do not engage your vehicle’s cruise control. Using cruise control on wet roads or during heavy rain can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
• Turn on your lights so you can see others, and they can see you.
• Remember emergency maneuvers. If you start to skid, for example, don’t panic. Rather, let up on the brake or accelerator and look and steer in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go.
AAA also urges motorists to be equipped with winter car essentials, including:
• Scraper/brush to clean ice off of your windshield. Using another object, such as a credit card or CD, could damage your auto glass.
• Kitty litter, sand or scrap pieces of carpet, can help tires gain traction if stuck in snow or mud.
• Jumper cables for unexpected battery failures.
• Folding shovel, when paired with sand or kitty litter, can help you get unstuck.
• Other tools that can help you stay safe in the event of a breakdown, including a cell phone and charger, blankets, hot packs to keep your hands and feet warm, water and non-perishable snacks.
AAA Insurance also advises that if you’re in an auto accident, law enforcement may not be available to assist. Exchange insurance information and be sure to obtain the name address and phone number of the other party, as well as the name of his/her insurance company name, policy number, and contact phone number. This information is essential to have and will help expedite claims resolution.
AAA Insurance also offers the following winter storm-related tips that can reduce potential damage to your home:
• Be sure you have flashlights and extra batteries; a portable radio; extra medicine and baby items; first-aid supplies; heating fuel’ and a fire extinguisher & smoke detector.
• Hopefully gutters and downspouts have been cleared of debris to allow melting snow and ice to flow freely by now. To help prevent ice dams from forming, keep the attic well-ventilated and the attic floor well insulated.
• Consider having snow removed if the accumulation of ice and snow exceeds 20-25 lbs. per square foot to avoid potential roof collapse.
• Never leave a fire or burning candles unattended. Properly dispose of fireplace embers.
• Follow all safety guidelines when using supplemental space heaters to prevent electrical fires or fires caused by the placement of heaters too close to flammable materials.
The majority of activity across the state of Kansas has come to a stop as the result of a widespread winter storm that has moved eastward across the state and resulted in up to 10 inches or more of snow in some areas since early Wednesday.
“We’ve been fortunate so far,” said Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir Thursday afternoon. “It’s not as bad as it could have been.”
Sure, streets and roads were 100 percent snow packed and slick, but there was only one injury accident reported. “The rest were slide-offs,” Bellendir said.
At one point Thursday morning, there were so many cars going off the road that tow trucks couldn’t keep up with the demand.
Crews from Barton County and the Kansas Department of Transportation were out non-stop clearing main roadways. However, the sheriff said secondary and township roads remained impassible Thursday.
So far, the wind has not been a factor, he said. But, it could come up and create blizzard conditions. Also, temperatures are expected to drop.
Bellendir advised residents to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to leave. If one gets stranded, “stay with the vehicle.”
It won’t take long for hypothermia to set in if someone is walking in the snow and cold.
There were also several minor accidents reported in Great Bend.
The storm also led to the closure of county and city offices, and of several businesses.
Around the state
The National Weather Service had been predicting this storm for the past several days and the majority of Kansans appear to be heeding the warnings of the potential impact this event may produce. An additional six to 12 inches of snow was predicted to fall in a short period of time Thursday, which increased the hazard of any type of travel or outdoor activity.
“Having an early warning of the storm has helped reduce travel, but a number of people are still on the roads,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “Road conditions are hazardous, so I urge everyone to just stay home and travel only if you absolutely must.”
Brownback signed a Declaration of Disaster Emergency for Kansas Wednesday as the storm system began to move into the state. The governor and Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, along with Mike King, secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation, conducted a statewide conference call with the media Thursday morning to update them on current conditions and the state’s response measures.
The Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Highway Patrol closed I-70 from Salina west to Hays in both directions at 11:30 a.m. due to the large number of slide-off accidents and limited availability of tow trucks. Many roads across the southern and western regions of Kansas are partly to completely snow-packed and travel is being strongly discouraged.
Most schools, churches, local and state government offices, and many businesses announced Wednesday that they would be closed for at least Thursday, Feb. 21, in anticipation of the potential for snowfall and other forms of winter precipitation, including sleet and freezing rain.
Limited power outages have been reported in south central Kansas as the result of the storm. Utility companies have crews responding to reported outages and on standby in the event of additional outages occurring during the storm.
This storm will continue moving across Kansas Thursday causing treacherous travel conditions. Highways, including ramp areas, bridges and overpasses are slick. Motorists should drive with extreme caution and use speeds appropriate for the driving conditions.
Very limited hotel accommodations are available along I-70 at many locations in western Kansas. Shelters for stranded travelers are open in Quinter and Wakeeney.
Local and state highway crews have been treating road surfaces and plowing snow in many regions of the state, and those crews will continue working throughout the day Thursday. Local law enforcement officers and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers have responded to numerous traffic crashes and vehicle slide-offs since the storm began. A number of travelers have been reported injured in these crashes, but no deaths have been reported to the State Emergency Operations Center as a result of traffic crashes or other storm related events.
Numerous arriving and departing flights at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport and Kansas City International Airport have been cancelled and passengers with flight plans are encouraged to check with their airline for updated status.
Residents are encouraged to monitor local media outlets for weather conditions and related problems in their area. Additional information on road conditions and closures is available at www.kandrive.org. Motorists who find themselves in need of assistance can call 911 or *47 to reach the Kansas Highway Patrol. Those traveling on the Kansas Turnpike can call *KTA.
Take care when
working in the snow
Many of us are tempted to rush outside and shovel the snow off the driveway, but cardiologists at The University of Kansas Hospital say “Not so fast.” Colder temperatures and the lack of activity most of us see over the winter months place extra demands on the human heart, so it’s important to stay alert to exertion warnings.
Among the early warning signs of overtaxing your heart are dizziness, extreme fatigue, feeling faint and in more serious cases, chest pains.
Even people in relatively good shape can be at risk during cold winter days.
“Cold weather and the lack of physical activity most of us see in the winter months can put a much greater strain on you quicker,” University of Kansas Hospital cardiologist Dr. Loren Berenbom said. “There is a great difference in the exertion level of the same exercise from outside, where it’s cold, to a heated indoor environment, like a gym.”
The dangers can be especially high for the elderly. Berenbom relates a classic scenario: “There is that older guy who just won’t give up shoveling his driveway and sidewalk. He wants it done now, but doesn’t want to pay to have it done, or thinks no one else can do it right.
“He goes out and overexerts himself and the next thing you know, he’s in the hospital. You want to finish the job; you don’t want the job to finish you.”
An important key to keeping heart healthy is working up to those outdoor chores, such as snow shoveling. Your doctor can help you develop an exercise plan that can help get you in shape and have you heart healthy. It is especially important that people with known heart disease exercise only as part of a health program overseen by their physician.