Bundle up, have a winter survival kit in your car and give plows some space this weekend

It’s winter in Montana so it’s no surprise that it’s cold and snowing.

But since none of use are perfect and most of us are probably going to think we can outsmart Mother Nature at some point, a weekend of subzero temperatures seems like a good time to review winter survival tips.

City crews on 24-hour schedule for snow and ice operations

The National Weather Service is forecasting a fair bit of snow for our area and maybe we’ll get it, maybe we won’t, but either way, they also recommend keeping a winter survival kit in your car.

What should be in your kit, you ask.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares or reflective triangle
  • Ice scraper
  • Car cell phone charger
  • Cat litter or sand for better tire traction
  • Keep your gas tank full in case of evacuation or power outages. A full tank will also keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Install good winter tires and ensure they have adequate tread or any jurisdiction-required chains or studs

Here’s more winter safety tips from Ready.gov.

If you need to drive in winter conditions, the American Red Cross recommends that you bring enough of the following for each person in the car:

  • blankets or sleeping bags;
  • rain gear, extra sets of dry clothing, mittens, socks, and wool hats;
  • newspapers for insulation; 
  • plastic bags for sanitation; 
  • canned fruit, nuts and high energy snacks (include a non-electric can opener if necessary); warm broth in a thermos and several bottles of water; keep a cell phone or two-way radio with you. Make sure the battery is charged.

The Red Cross also recommends that you:

  • plan to travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person with you; 
  • let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive. If your vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route;
  • before leaving, listen to weather reports for your area and the areas you will be passing through, or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions;
  • be on the lookout for sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzle, and dense fog, which can make driving very hazardous.
Here’s a list of items that the Montana Department of Transportation recommends for an emergency travel kit in your vehicle.

MDT also asks drivers to follow these guidelines for safety around snowplows:

  • Don’t crowd the plow. Plow drivers have limited visibility so don’t assume your vehicle is in view.
  • Maintain a safe distance behind the snowplow. Plows aren’t just removing snow. They may also be spreading sand or de-icer on the road.
  • Be patient—never pass through a white out. The driver will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow vehicles to pass.
  • Slow down. Plows are large and move slower than highway speeds. It is difficult to judge distance when approaching the plow so slow down immediately to avoid a collision.