There are many reasons I’m thankful for my stepdad, Danny. I wrote a couple of years ago about him making sure there was something from Santa under the tree every year, but today I’m thankful for more practical things he taught me. Having survived Ohio winters as a kid and North Dakota winters as a member of the K9 guard at an Air Force base, he knew a little something about surviving winters. These are some of the things he taught me.
1. Shovel early, shovel often. Don’t wait until the full several inches has accumulated in your driveway and walkways. Begin shoveling while it’s still falling and you’ll easily scoop away those half inches bit by bit. (I wish I’d listened to this last night.) If you wait, shovel in increments, a few feet at a time. It’s easier on the back and heart, and the snow isn’t going anywhere. Heart attacks are a big danger for even seemingly healthy people because snow shoveling is more work on the ticker than you’d think.
2. Driving in snow takes skill, driving on ice is stupid. Living in the south I often hear transplanted Northerners like me say they can drive on snow. Yep, they probably can. But when I hear them say they can drive on ice, I start deducting IQ points. No one can drive safely on ice. But there are some things that make it easier. Go slow. Wherever you’re going will be there when you get there, the important thing is to make sure you and those who ride with you are still okay when you get there. Leave a lot of room between you and the car in front of you. Turn into the skid—works for ice, snow or hydroplaning. You’re increasing the natural friction and it helps to stop the car. Try to stay in the groves of the car ahead of you. If it found traction there, you probably will too. Think ahead of where you are; ask yourself, "What will I do if..."
3. Be prepared for the worst. Have a safety kit with you. It’s actually very easy and can be put together from things at home. Start with a metal coffee can and poke holes in the sides. In the can put a candle, matches or a lighter, an extra pair of gloves, granola bars or a couple of chocolate bars, a small cup like a 1cp. measuring cup, a red rag and an unwound and folded up piece of a coat hanger. Keep this in the car, but way from heat sources like the floorboard of the front seat. Always carry a blanket with you and a small shovel/hand spade and a bag of deice, kitty litter or sand in the trunk of your car.
The de-ice, litter or sand can help you get traction after you dig out a bit of the slush and ice under your tires. If you can’t get out, make sure your tail pipe is clear so carbon monoxide doesn’t build up in and under the car. Now get back in the car and pullout your can. If your car won’t run and you can’t use the heater, you can hang the can from the rearview mirror with the wire and use the candle for light and warmth. You have a bit of a snack, a blanket, dry gloves and a cup for snatching snow up that you can melt to drink if needed. The red rag was for the days before cellphones. You tied it to your antenna or rolled it up in the window to signal for help.
Well, enough of that. I need to go back out and shovel some more snow.