Icy Weather Essentials To Keep You Safe And Warm
When it comes to harsh winter weather, Southwest Oklahoma usually gets Mother Natures last and strongest hit in February. Historically, it's our coldest month with the biggest weather swings. Some years, February is 90 degrees right out of the gate... Other years, it's the month she'll dump seven inches of snow on top of a layer of ice. While 2021 is proving to be a cold last hurrah for February, lets talk the essentials to keep you safe and warm.
If the forecast that has already been wrong in the last 48 hours manages to remain true, we have quite the outlook for what meteorologists like to call "Winter Precipitation." They call it that because the temperature has mood swings and doesn't quite know what it's going to do. Yeah, a massive cold front is swooping down for a minute, but the rebellious south wind will do whatever it can to produce a freeze-thaw cycle that has us all wondering what tomorrow will look like. In my fifteen years in SWOK, I have in my vehicle the ultimate winter weather preparedness kit. Here are my essentials.
First and foremost, a recommended requirement for any kind of icy weather, and the fact that falling on the ice hurts both the body and your pride, I keep two pairs of slip-on crampons in my truck year round.
Why year round?
Well, if I keep them at the house, I'll forget them... but as I make the treacherous walk to my vehicle on an icy morning, I know exactly where they are. Idealy you won't be pulling them over a pair of Crocs like I occasionally do, but to each their own. Better to look like an idiot rather than fall like one.
I know what you're about to say... "Water freezes!" blah blah blah... Yes it does, thank you for the remedial lesson in science. Water is a necessity to life. I don't expect to ever be stuck on the side of the road and need a water source, but in the very unlikely situation that it may be, being prepared is paramount and good scouts are always prepared.
Pro-Tip: If you keep your bottles of water in a small cooler, they won't freeze until the ambient air temperature gets well below zero. Just like a cooler insulates to keep your cold stuff cold, it will insulate your water to keep it from freezing. So in the unlikely event you find yourself in your vehicle needing a drink, you'll always have something with you.
I like these from Titan. No zippers or rubber bungees to mess with, keeps ice all day in summer, keeps water in a liquid state all winter. I think Academy sells them under the Columbia name for just double the price, but believe me, Titan made those too.
If there's one thing cold weather is notorious for, it's killing your vehicles battery. It's just the nature of things, especially if you're battery is over two years old. It'll work great all year then suddenly lose a lot of its charge and/or die when it finally gets to that magical temperature. I can't tell you what that number is, but it happens at some point to every battery. The obvious answer, and something that should live in your vehicle year round, is jumper cables.
I know, at least one of you is saying "I have a battery powered jump pack so I can jump my own car off...." but we're back at square one. That jump pack suffers the same effects as it's also a battery... and any contractor will tell you, lithium batteries are affected even more in brutally cold weather.
One of the things most people overlook in wintertime is the necessity of layers. Layers of clothing keep more of your body heat next to your body. Just wearing a big puffy jacket over a t-shirt isn't going to cut it. I keep a spare hoodie in my truck year round, not only for the cold months, but because my cousin keeps his house at a staggering 64 degrees in the summertime. I also have a lightweight pair of flannel pajama pants and extra socks for when slushy water slips up in those holes in my Crocs. None of it is considered "harsh winter weather" clothing, but thin layers add warmth very quickly.
A lot of people also carry blankets in their vehicles. Me too. But it's less for winter weather and more for summer picnics and watching fireworks. Still, it could not only be a lifesaver but a welcome creature comfort if you get to work and find the heat is out.
Cell Phone Charger
I know I just told you about how battery operated things aren't good for cold weather, but this isn't something you're going to leave in the car. Ideally, it'll stay on your person in your everyday go-bag. If your car battery does die and you end up stranded, this is a cheap and effective back-up to keep you connected to someone that can help.
There are a million of these online and in stores. They're all probably made in the same factory with different names slapped on them, they all seem to last about two years before crapping out anyway... I wouldn't worry about brand. Buy the most power for the cheapest amount and use it periodically. Just make sure it's recharged before these bitterly cold days hit.