DENVER — With the 9NEWS Weather team tracking a large, "prolonged" snowfall event barreling toward the state, AAA Colorado says now is the time to prepare.
"Colorado is no stranger to severe winter weather. We'll get through this the way we always do, with a little preparation and a lot of common sense," said regional director of public affairs for AAA Skyler McKinley. "That means that now is the time to begin adjusting your plans so you can stay off the roads, to prepare your car if you can't avoid driving, and to make sure you've got everything you need to comfortably ride out the storm at home."
AAA Colorado has shared the following tips on how to prepare for this weather event.
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Stay safe by staying home
Hazardous storms and inclement weather are a factor in half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
For a storm of this magnitude, the only completely safe choice you can make is to stay home. Motorists should closely monitor weather reports on Friday and should be prepared to cancel non-essential travel plans. Significant snowfall coupled with high winds and low visibility could make travel impossible.
If you have to drive
Drive safely in snow and ice by driving slowly. Budget extra time for all trips. Even if traffic jams are minimal, it will take you longer to get to where you're going because you will need to move more slowly - so avoid creating extra stress by budgeting up to three times the normal travel time.
Keep an emergency kit in your car with tire chains, abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, a small shovel, a flashlight with extra batteries, an ice scraper, rags or paper towels, flares or other warning devices, booster cables and a first aid kit. Bring blankets, jackets, hats and gloves for you and your passengers. Pack water and snacks, such as energy bars. Fully charge your mobile phone before you hit the road.
Your wiper blades have been warning you for months that they're not ready for winter by streaking, screeching, or bouncing around on the glass. New wiper blades are among the cheapest pieces of safety-critical equipment you can purchase for your vehicle. They take only a couple of minutes to swap out, and most auto parts stores will do that for you immediately after purchase. Make sure you've got wiper fluid that won't freeze in winter, and plenty of it. After all, if you can't see clearly, you can't drive safely.
If your car was parked outside during the storm, completely clear off all snow and ice before heading out. That means the windshield, your windshield wiper nozzles, the windows, the hood, the roof, the trunk, the mirrors and even the running boards. Everything. Why? When you start moving, that snow and ice will start moving with you. Once dislodged, it can seriously impair your ability to see - and even fly off and endanger other motorists. Why take the risk? Clearing your vehicle is the law, and it's the right thing to do.
Keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent a gas line freeze-up and potential long-term issues with your fuel pump.
If your low tire pressure warning light came on, fill up your tires to the level recommended by your manufacturer (in your owner's manual or on your door jamb). This is the recommended level specifically for cold weather, so you'll want to fill up before heading out and after your car has been sitting for a while. This light comes on specifically to warn you that you might not have enough pressure for the road conditions, so don't ignore it. If, once filled, your tires fail the quarter test for tread, it's time for new tires. Avoid driving, especially in wintry conditions, until you have them. If your vehicle is not equipped with winter tires or all-season tires with a M+S designation, it is not safe to drive in these conditions.
On the road
You have the greatest traction just before the wheels spin. Gentle pressure on the accelerator pedal when starting from a stop is the best method for retaining traction and avoiding skids. If your wheels start to spin, let up on the accelerator until traction returns. Do not use cruise control.
No matter what type of vehicle you have or what type of tires you're riding, it's plainly unsafe to drive as quickly as you would in dry conditions. Normal following distances for dry pavement (three to four seconds) should be increased to eight to 10 seconds. Give yourself even more space (12-15 seconds or more) if you are new to winter driving.
If your car has an anti-lock braking system, which it likely does, a pulsating break pedal means the system is working. Do not remove your foot from the brake during a skid. When you apply the brakes hard enough to make the wheels lock momentarily, you will typically feel the brake pedal vibrate and pulsate back against your foot. This is normal! Do not release pressure on the pedal or attempt to pump the brakes.
Manage a Skid
If you lose traction and begin to skid, stay calm to regain control of your vehicle. Always steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go. Do NOT slam on the brakes, which will make it harder to regain control.Stay in Your Lane
On a four-lane highway, stay in the lane that has been cleared most recently. Avoid changing lanes because of potential control loss when driving over built-up snow between lanes.
At speeds above 25mph, steering is the preferred way to avoid a crash - as less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to a loss of control.
Know Your Environment
Shaded spots, bridges, overpasses, and intersections are where you'll most likely find the slipperiest ice. Even if your drive is dry and manageable in parts, it is likely you will encounter ice along the way - so focus your attention as far ahead as possible and slow down as much as possible before driving over likely ice patches.
Put the phone away
Put your phone in the glovebox, or, if used for navigation, in a secure mount. Do not read or send text messages, place a call, check social media, browse the internet, or adjust your GPS directions while moving. Distracted driving is always dangerous driving, and doubly so when challenging conditions demand your absolute attention at all times.
Prepare your home
Stock Up on Essentials
If conditions make travel impossible, it is not safe to go to the grocery store, to pick up takeout, or to order delivery. Before the storm hits, stock up on nonperishable food and water. In addition to food that can be prepared without power, make sure you've also got a manual can opener, an emergency cell phone charger, candles, flashlights, extra batteries, and a first-aid kid. Make sure you've got plenty of blankets and cold-weather clothing on hand.
Winterize Your Home
Before the snow starts to fall, trim any tree branches that hang over your roof or car and those that could break a window during high winds. Check windows and doors for drafts, and use caulk and weather stripping to keep out the cold air. Wrap exposed water pipes with pipe insulation. Use a window insulation kit to keep out cold air.
Prevent Cracked Pipes
Keep your thermostat set to at least 58 degrees, if possible, to prevent freezing. Leave cabinet doors open under kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes. "Drip" one or more faucets on at around five to ten droplets per minute to alleviate pressure to help prevent freezing.
Report Power Outages
Xcel Energy Customers can report power outages via the Xcel Energy mobile app, online at xcelenergy.com/out, or by texting 'OUT' to 98936.
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