Winter Hazard Awareness Week Nov. 5-9


Little Falls resident Dan Girtz clears snow from his car before starting on the sidewalk shoveling during a storm last winter.

Anyone is at risk, even after years of living in Minnesota

By Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer

Winter doesn’t slow Minnesotans down – in fact Minnesotans are just as mobile and active during winter as they are during the summer months.

But it is vital to be informed and aware of the potential risks and hazards associated with winter weather and how to avoid them.

To help do this, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), along with the National Weather Service and other agencies, sponsors Winter Hazard Awareness Week every fall.

This year, Winter Hazard Awareness Week will be Nov. 5-9. Its purpose is to educate, inform, remind and reinforce the behaviors that lead to a warm, safe and enjoyable winter season.

“The main thing to remember with winter storms is to pay attention to weather reports and dress for the cold,” said Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel. “Don’t go out and drive unless absolutely necessary when bad weather occurs.”

Winter storm warnings include the following: outlook — winter storm conditions are possible in the next two to five days. Stay tuned to local media for updates; watch — winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Prepare now; warning — life-threatening severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Act now; advisory — winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If you are cautious, these situations should not be life threatening, according to the DPS Web site.

“When driving in winter, make sure you have a winter survival kit in your car with blankets, some candy, flashlight, candle, etc. Have your vehicle in good working order with jumper cables and some traction enhancement material such as kitty litter or crushed granite,” said Wetzel

Caution is advised for those driving after storms, according to the DPS Web  page. Check road conditions at or call 511. It takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions; be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions.

Stay back at least five car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud. Snowplow operators will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow traffic build-up to pass. Stay alert for snowplows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions, and give yourself plenty of travel time and avoid unnecessary travel if road conditions are too poor.

“At home, keep survival equipment stocked in the event of a power outage and keep wood pile, fuel oil tanks, and propane tanks full,” Wetzel said.

When planning activities outdoors, the DPS recommends taking the following precautions. Check the weather forecast for changing weather to be prepared for anything. Carry backup clothing and supplies; use the proper equipment; wear the proper attire. Use clothing and gear designed for the activity.

Stay focused; commit 100 percent of your attention on the activity. Rest when you are tired.

Hydrate often; avoid alcohol. Don’t drink before or during any outdoor activity. Alcohol cools the blood and decreases body temperature. In cold weather conditions, alcohol can speed the process of frostbite or hypothermia. It increases fatigue and causes impaired judgment.

“Keep kids off the ice unless you’ve tested the area they will be fishing or skating on. When on the ice, have rope, life jacket and picks available to help you get out, or rescue another person,” Wetzel said.

“We’re pretty used to winter,” he said. “Those of us who were born and raised here usually don’t give it a second thought. But we need to stop and think when the weather turns foul, to make sure we have some of the basic essentials to help stay alive in an emergency.”