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Our View: Don't be nasty-weather naive; prep now for winter

From the editorial: "In the city of Duluth, last winter for the first time, snow emergencies were declared to allow streets to be plowed more efficiently."

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John Cole / Cagle Cartoons
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A Japanese proverb claims that one kind word can warm three winter months. Every Northlander knows it also takes a working furnace, an emergency blanket in the trunk, common sense, and an eye out for one another, among other preparations that demand to be taken care of now.

The South Shore and up toward the Canadian border have already seen some of winter’s worst this year, while Duluth and the Twin Ports have had just tastes of the frigid fury we know is to come. Whether severe or mild so far, Winter Weather Awareness Week is this week of Nov. 14-18 in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s a prime chance to review your readiness and to avoid being caught nasty-weather naive.

“Winter doesn’t slow Minnesotans down. We are just as mobile, social, and active,” the Minnesota Department of Public Safety states at its Winter Storms and Weather web page. “In order to ensure a safe and enjoyable winter, it is critical to be informed and aware of the potential risks and hazards.”

“Winters can be dangerous,” Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator Greg Engle said in a statement last week. “Take time now to get your vehicle ready for winter weather, schedule a furnace tune-up, and make sure your home emergency kit is fully stocked with essential supplies.”

Other advice from the two states includes being alert, always, to reports of approaching bad weather, especially reports from the National Weather Service or other reliable sources. Take shelter or stay home when advised to do so because of dangerous weather.

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When outdoors, always wear weather-appropriate clothing and limit time spent outside, especially during particularly frigid cold snaps.

At home, have your furnace serviced regularly, check doorways and windows to ensure they aren’t letting in cold air, test carbon-monoxide detectors, and keep free-standing heating devices away from curtains or other objects that could catch fire.

Be sure your in-car and at-home winter survival kits include boots, jackets, gloves, blankets, a cell-phone charger, flashlight with extra batteries, bottled water, snacks, booster cables, basic tools, sand or cat litter (for traction beneath tires stuck in snow or ice), a red bandana (to tie to your radio antenna if buried in a snowbank), and a pencil and paper.

When driving in snow or ice, slow down and limit distractions. And stay back at least five car lengths from snowplows, remembering that plows move at slower speeds, may not stay in a single lane, and may exit or turn frequently and with little warning.

In the city of Duluth, last winter for the first time, snow emergencies were declared to allow streets to be plowed more efficiently during severe weather. Sign up at duluthmn.gov/northlandalert/ to be alerted via text, email, or phone to snow emergencies this year.

Snow emergencies are declared by 4 p.m. the day of a big storm. Vehicle owners then have five hours to move their cars or trucks from marked snow-emergency routes. Vehicles still parked along the routes after 9 p.m. can be ticketed and/or towed. From 2 a.m. to 6 p.m. following the declaration of a snow emergency, street maintenance crews work to clear snow-emergency routes. Once snow-emergency routes are plowed, crews then move on to residential streets and then alleys. If a snow emergency isn’t extended, then, at 6 p.m. the day after the declaration, normal parking can resume.

Another proverb, this one Russian, says that it is never winter in the land of hope. Since it’s far too early to hope for spring, right now can be the land of preparedness instead — as Minnesota and Wisconsin emergency-management officials remind us this week.

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