Beautiful, bright blue winter skies, light fluffy clouds – ah, winter in Maine. As we all know, however, the skies will darken and the clouds will let loose inches of the white stuff, or worse – freezing rain. Temperatures will drop and the roads will get messy. As winter season approaches, make sure you’re prepared and protected!
Let’s start with driving. Much of winter driving, no matter where you live, is common sense but there are times when Old Man Winter and Mother Nature throw a monkey wrench into that thought process. Be prepared.
Preventative care of your vehicle…
Take the time to check your tires for wear and consider a set of snow tires. Check tire pressure as well – did you know that for every ten degrees the temperature drops, the air pressure inside your tires goes down 1 to 2 pounds? How’s your spare? Do you have a working jack in the car? How about a sturdy scraper with a brush? Always keep a minimum half tank of fuel in your vehicle, if you get stuck or go off the road you will stay warm until help arrives! Check your wipers and your washer fluid too, visibility is key to safe driving. Lastly, an emergency kit is an absolute necessity as well, include a blanket, hat and gloves, first aid kit, snacks and water along with a shovel, kitty litter and salt-melt, flashlights, flares and a can of WD-40 to help remove bolts if needed, and of course, the Maine staple, duct tape!
Watch the weather
It sounds silly but how many times have you gone out the door armed for the day with the clear weather report you just saw, then, surprise! A nor’easter for your evening commute. Be prepared. Know how to react to the change in temperature and precipitation.
- Listen to traffic reports and check online for school and road closures.
- Your local network stations are a great resource for road conditions and closures.
- Technology has come a long way – even a quick check of Facebook could give you valuable information for your own specific route of travel.
Black ice is one of those conditions that is difficult to anticipate, it appears in thin sheets where theremay be a runoff or small holes and if you feel the wheels lose traction remember, first – stay calm. Secondly, take your foot off the gas AND the brake for now. Let the vehicle weight slow you down and keep your wheels straight as possible. If you begin to skid or hydroplane and your car turns just continue to look and steer in the direction your car wants to go. Black ice will appear and disappear quickly and with luck you will soon feel the tires grip again – giving you back the control.
Drive only if you need to when the weather is severe – know your own limitations. If driving in snow, ice, rain, or fog scares you don’t risk it. Seriously, do you really need to run out to the store now?? You don’t want to be one of those drivers crawling up a hill so slowly it causes you or other vehicles to lose traction and slide off the road. When you do drive, keep a safe distance from the driver ahead of you and note their tire tracks too – you can get a feel for the depth of rain or snow as well.
Basic safety rules apply no matter what the weather, but a good rule of thumb is to drive with yourheadlights on when driving in snow, rain, or fog. Not only will you see the road better but other drivers will see you better as well. Be cautious when driving through puddles and pools, we have some pretty impressive pot holes in Maine that can cause you to bounce around, lose control, even pop your tire – if visibility is good and traffic clear try to drive around those areas.
What should you do if you go off the road or you get stuck this winter? Stay with your car, turn off your headlights and put on your hazards. Periodically turn on your car to keep warm but preserve your fuel just in case help takes a while to come. You may need to get out and assess your situation, clear the tailpipe or clean snow off the lights both front and rear. If you have a mobile phone, call 911 before call a family member or friend to alert them and give your exact location. As you know, cellular service on Mount Desert Island can be spotty so keep in mind that if you cannot make a call, sometimes a text will still transmit.
Other safety tips when you are out and about this winter…
Going for a walk? Hike? Run? We are so fortunate to live here on MDI where there is so much to do year-round – our dynamic communities enjoy a myriad of winter activities – snow-mobiling, skiing, skating, hiking, and more. In wintertime in particular, keep safety in mind. Whether you are headed into the Park or to a favorite local spot, let someone know your route, the time you plan to leave and the time you plan to return and do not deviate from that – your safety depends upon it. Dress appropriately for the weather – using the right gear for the activity – whether it is hiking boots, traction shoes, snowsuit, or your favorite wool socks – you will safely enjoy your outing longer.
Be mindful, as well, when you are out and about in your town. Whether driving or walking, yield to state and town plows as much as possible. Our municipalities work hard to keep roadways and sidewalks clear but be aware of stubborn ice and snow along the way – especially in parking areas where it is nearly impossible to completely clear snow and ice. Watch your step!
Power outages! Schoolchildren revere them, waking up on time (for once!) for school – just so they can find out if it has been canceled or delayed – but for the rest of us a power outage can make life stressful if we aren’t prepared. If you have a generator, make sure it is ready to go, has been tuned up, is full of gas and that an extra tank of gas is available. Do you know how to use it? Keep a good supply of candles, flashlights and batteries as well as jugs of water on hand. Remember to have a backup childcare orschool pick-up plan in place, be prepared not panicked.
Our power companies work hard to restore power as quickly as possible but as we know, in rural Maine, with above ground power lines it can be a challenge to locate the issues and we need to be patient. Being prepared will provide a lot of peace of mind while waiting for the lights to come back on.
Winter in Maine is breathtakingly beautiful – the chop of the sea, the snow and ice clinging to trees and ledges, and the comforting sight and smell of wood smoke spiraling out of the chimney – but remember to be prepared and ENJOY!
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