Discussion: As much of the nation is into the heart of winter, there are many weather conditions that can affect your vehicle and the way you drive. Driving in snowy, foggy, or icy conditions can give even the most experienced motorist a challenge on the road. According to the Department of Transportation, there are approximately 1.2 million vehicle accidents related to weather, which leads to on average 6,000 fatalities and approximately 445,000 injuries due to these dangerous road conditions. So, what do you need to know to get to your destination in tricky winter weather safely?
Knowing your weather forecast before you leave the house helps tremendously. As of last fall, the National Weather Service has started to issue snow squall warnings which notify the public when a quick burst of snow that can cause limited visibility and hazardous road conditions. Snow squalls are defined as intense, limited duration periods of moderate to heavy snowfall, which are accompanied by gusty surface winds. A snow squall is associated with strong cold front passages. Snow squalls approximately last a half hour to an hour in duration. They are common in the winter and can produce sudden whiteout conditions. If temperatures rapidly fall while a snow squall is occurring, surfaces can become very dangerous to travel on. These weather conditions can cause accidents if motorists are not careful when caught in one.
If caught in a snow squall while traveling, it’s important to take safety precautions to keep safe. Reduce your vehicle’s speed and turn on your headlights and hazard lights. In addition, if on a slick surface don’t slam your vehicle’s brakes as that could cause a loss of control of the vehicle. Always have a car emergency kit in your trunk, as you never know when you might get stuck. In addition, make sure your vehicle is prepared to handle the weather and is in top shape. Make sure to tune into your local weather service office and local meteorologists for the latest winter weather advisories and warnings. For more information on Winter Weather and Safety be sure to click here!
©2019 Meteorologist Shannon Scully
Historic Cold Temperatures Across the Midwestern United States (Credit: National Weather Service, NWS Central Region, NWS Chicago)
Discussion: As the nation heads into the end of January, many parts of the Midwestern United States are set to see the coldest temperatures of the winter so far. According to the National Weather Service, an arctic high-pressure system is set to move south from Canada, bringing life threatening, dangerously cold air with it. Many regional National Weather Service offices across the Midwest have issued windchill warnings, as windchill temperatures in some areas may experience the feeling of as much as -40 or -50 below zero. A windchill warning is issued when there are dangerously cold windchill temperatures occurring or expected to occur. The combination of this frigid air and strong winds can cause frostbite to occur on any exposed skin in a matter of minutes. Windchill temperatures are determined by the rate of heat loss due to exposed skin from the wind and the cold.
For many cities, forecasted temperatures will meet or break the record lows recorded decades ago. These could be all-time record-breaking temperatures. In Chicago, Illinois, the last time the city experienced temperatures this cold was back in 1994. These cold temperatures will break or have already broken many daily record coldest high and low temperatures. Most of the region is expected to experience daytime temperatures below zero, combined with windchills of 40 and 50 below. With these hazardous temperatures and windchills, it is important to stay safe both inside and outside. Dressing in layers and covering all exposed skin while out can help prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Car batteries can’t withstand these cold temperatures and can die leaving people stranded so it’s crucial to have a winter weather emergency kit in vehicles. With this cold weather, outdoor activities are not the only issues to watch out for; many indoor problems can arise. Extremely cold temperatures can cause pipes inside of houses to freeze and burst. Carbon Monoxide poisoning is another danger, as people misuse secondary heating sources to stay warm. In addition to keeping friends and family safe and warm, it is important to check on your elderly neighbors as this weather can be much more life threatening for them. Lastly, bring your pets inside, and when letting them outside stay with them and bring them in quickly.
For more information on weather safety and preparedness be sure to click here!
© 2019 Meteorologist Shannon Scully