The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


December 8, 2013

Stay safe

It isn’t officially winter yet. The winter solstice, which marks the first day of the season, won’t come until Dec. 21 at 12:11 p.m., according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

That’s why we believe that Mother Nature — and Old Man Winter himself — should follow the calendar more precisely.

If they did, we probably wouldn’t be in the mess that weather forecasts say we are in for today.

A wintry mix becoming mostly freezing rain in the afternoon. Temperatures nearly steady in the low to mid 30s. Winds out of the southeast at 15 to 25 miles per hour, according to

UGH! This we do not like!

Isn’t freezing rain the worst? You can’t stand up. You can’t drive. Trees cannot withstand the onslaught of heavy ice coating their limbs. The limbs crack and break. They fall on power lines. Which break, plunging us into the cold and dark.

For all of those reasons, we want you to take extra precautions today — or on any nasty weather day.

Driveways and sidewalks can become treacherous when glazed with a bit of freezing rain adhering to the surface. How to cope? Here’s a tip we weren’t aware of. According to the website for the City of Edmonton in Canada, microwaving sand in a microwave-safe container and spreading it while it is still warm can make it more effective. It will embed itself into the ice, creating a gritty top layer. The site also says that spreading sand on a sidewalk before ice forms can make future ice easier to remove.

The best advice we can give you about being safe for driving in freezing rain is don’t. Four-wheel-drive vehicles, chains or studs won’t help you much. When there is ice on the road, tires cannot gain friction and sliding ensues.

Overconfidence also leads to crashes on frozen roads. Just because you can drive well in snow doesn’t transfer to icy ones. Recovery from a slide is nearly impossible. According to, in 2008-2009, more people were killed on icy roads in seven Midwest states than were in the tornadoes the area is better known for.

If you must venture out onto slick roads, be sure you are prepared with an emergency kit that includes a flashlight and extra fresh batteries, blankets, flares. You should also carry a bag of salt or cat litter for providing traction if you get stuck and a shovel for digging out.

Do not leave your car. Run the engine and heater for 10 minutes each hour, but make sure your exhaust pipe is not blocked.

But remember, the best way to stay safe is to stay home. However, don’t let your guard down there either.

Ice-laden tree branches are prone to breaking, often bringing power lines down with them, causing power outages. Heck, given a heavy enough coating of ice, the lines can break themselves.

The first rule is do not touch a downed line! Even if you believe it is not live, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

Keep your flashlights handy in case you find yourself in the dark. A portable radio would be handy, as well.

Also remember never to use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partly enclosed area. Locate the unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

If using portable heaters, keep them at least 3 feet away from anything that can catch fire. Always use a flashlights for illumination, not candles.

Keep a variety of nonperishable food items that do not need cooking. Hunker down and keep warm.

The web has many sites with suggestions for staying safe on the highways and at home during nasty weather. Check out,,, and

It’s going to be a long, cold winter. We want to be able to greet spring happy and healthy. So please, keep these guidelines in mind all winter long.

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