While many people are dreaming of summer sun and sand, North Carolinians are about to have a cold wake-up in the form of snow and ice tonight. Here are a few tips for how to stay safe in this type of extreme (for us) weather.
Dress in Layers
Five days ago, it was 75 degrees outside. Tonight, 2 to 4 inches of snow. How can you not love North Carolina weather? Dressing properly is not only about staying comfortable, it is also about helping your body maintain a proper body temperature.
So, how should you dress to play outside in the snow? According to KidsHealth.org, here’s what you (and your kids) should wear:
- long-sleeved undershirt (thermal or woolen)
- a turtleneck shirt
- one or two over-shirts
- a sweater
- long underwear (thermal or woolen)
- heavy pants (avoiding jeans or khakis because they don’t insulate well…waterproof ski pants are best)
- heavy socks
- a coat
- waterproof boots
- a scarf
- a hat
Okay, when you have finished laughing, note that the key point in this list is that you should dress in layers. Wearing two lighter-weight shirts is better than one heavier shirt because the air that is trapped between the two light-weight shirts acts as insulation to keep you warmer. Plus, as you get warmer or the temperature rises, you can start to remove some of the layers so you don’t sweat to death inside your clothes.
Drive Only If Necessary
Once snow starts falling or the road surfaces become slick, stay home unless you absolutely, positively have to be somewhere.
In the Northeast, where snow is a common event from October through March, people grow up learning how to drive in snow. Not so in North Carolina. Even a small amount of snow can lead to hazardous driving conditions, for many reasons. When cars drive over snow, the snow may compact into a slick surface, or the snow can melt and refreeze into a layer of ice. And as they say, just because you have 4–wheel-drive doesn’t mean you have 4-wheel-stop. No car or truck can properly steer or stop on ice.
Even if you grew up someplace snowy and understand the physics of driving in snow, the people around you may not be so experienced. You may be able to safely drive to the mall, but others around you may drive directly into the side of your car.
If you must leave your home, practice greater defensive driving. Drive slow enough for the road conditions AND for the skill levels of the other drivers. If you see someone slipping and sliding on the road in front of you, slow down and let them pull even farther ahead–you don’t want them sliding into you.
Also, remember to scrape all the snow and ice off ALL the windows of your vehicle–not just the front windshield. You need to be able to see what’s coming at you from all directions.
Remember Where You Live
If you live in Maine and a single snow could leave you stranded for a week, you’re right to go and stock up on groceries. But here in North Carolina, the snow rarely lasts 24 hours–most of the time it melts before my second cup of coffee.
There’s a joke around here that snow must make North Carolinians crave French toast because grocery stores are cleaned out of bread, milk, and eggs. Unless you have small children or a very special diet, there is really no reason to make a panicked trip to the supermarket. If you don’t buy the food before the snow, wait a day and the snow will be gone.
The Ice You See…
The greatest danger in a snow storm isn’t the snow, it’s the ice. And ice is not all created equal. The ice you see is less dangerous than the ice you can’t see.
If you look down at the road and see snow or a thick layer of snowy ice, you know to walk carefully. But some ice–known as “black ice”–is virtually invisible. This layer of ice is so transparent and thin that a paved road doesn’t really look much different than it usually does–the road surface still looks black, not white and snowy. But thin ice is just as slick as thick ice. Black ice is responsible for many, many motor vehicle wrecks and slip-and-fall accidents each year. My friend lost his father a few years ago when he walked out of his house and slipped on the thin layer of ice on the steps outside his front door. He hit his head and died a few weeks later.
After a snow or ice storm, take precautions when walking…even short distances. Look at the ground and see if it seems shinier than usual, and when you take a step, make sure you have secure footing before continuing on.
If you are driving, remember that bridges and overpasses freeze before other road surfaces do, and are more likely to be coated with black ice.
Take a Moment to Enjoy
Snow is such a rare occurrence in our part of North Carolina that we still get a child-like thrill at seeing the flakes fall. If you love snow, try to get out and play! And if you hate the cold, remember that the snow will pass very quickly and we’ll be back to 100-degree days before you know it.
Safe Snow Day, Everyone!