One would think that by now, long-time Minnesotans would know that winter can be a dangerous – even deadly – time of year. But how quickly so many, who should know better, forget that fact.
During unseasonably warm weather in December and the first couple weeks of January, it was disturbing how many people fell through ice on lakes, ponds or rivers throughout the state. Those people got an icy-cold rude awakening when they fell through thin ice.
Several times on Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota, people had to be rescued when they became stuck on a detached sheet of ice. A little girl fell through ice on a pond somewhere in the state but was rescued, thank goodness, by a State Trooper woman who happened to witness the accident. Recently, a 16-year-old boy was snowmobiling on Little Rock Lake near Rice when his machine veered right into open water. The boy managed to crawl back up on the ice and walked to a fish house where the occupant drove him to safety on shore. The victim, suffering from hypothermia, was rushed to the hospital. There are other such incidents, too numerous to mention.
And now, after the relentless sub-zero assault of last week, lake ice should be good and solid, but another danger looms: a blithe carelessness about traveling in the dead of winter in blizzards, white-outs, Arctic cold spells, winter fog and/or slippery roads.
All Minnesotans, young, old and in between, should keep tuned to weather reports throughout the day. When forecasters advise people not to go anywhere unless absolutely necessary, they should heed and obey such advisories. Parents should make sure children not leave the house or play in the yard when wind-chills are sub-zero.
Motorists should make sure their vehicles are winter-ready: good tires, adequate tire pressure, fluids topped off and everything in working order. A winter tune-up by a qualified mechanic is essential.
And, not to forget!, place several thick, warm blankets in the car, such as insulated sleeping bags. And then put together a survival kit or box. Such a box should contain the following items to store in the trunk: emergency flares, flashlights or lanterns, warm clothing (good gloves, winter boots, stocking hats), jumper cables, emergency car-battery charger, small snow shovel, two flashlights, a first-aid kit, bottles of water and granola-protein bars to put inside the car just before any trip.
Also essential is an iPhone or flip phone that is fully charged to make emergency calls when stalled on a road or in a ditch. It’s recommended any battery-operated items (phones, flashlights) should be re-charged in the home, and they should be brought into the vehicle just before any trip, long or short. That way, the batteries won’t be drained by being left too long in the extreme cold.
To learn more, google “Winter Car Safety Kits.”
At the very least, if you do not want to collect and store all those items, please remember to stock the car with three or four warm blankets. Imagine waiting for an hour or more in a cold car rapidly getting even colder as you and/or loved ones hope for help to arrive. It is an excruciating wait, and some, sadly, do not survive it.
So, if nothing else, bring plenty of warm blankets!