Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Monday, Oct. 26, probably won't receive the big headlines typically reserved for other big occasions that happen this month year after year.

October news is typically dominated by the start of pheasant season, the World Series, the end of Daylight Savings Time, and trick-or-treaters.

Ben Taylor, Clay County's emergency management director, hopes that, beginning Monday, everyone gives thought to another sign of the times that arrives the end of each October: the approach of winter.

October 26 to Oct. 30 has been declared Winter Severe Weather Awareness Week by Gov. Bill Janklow.

It's a time to provide the public with the information that they need to know to protect themselves and their families when threatened by adverse winter weather.

I know that harping about winter safety this time of the year, especially to South Dakotans who are well-seasoned veterans of the cold and snow that may arrive soon, is like preaching to the choir.

But Taylor hopes county citizens heed the advice provided by the National Weather Service and the South Dakota Division of Emergency Management.

All of the winter weather watches and warnings mean little if the public doesn't know what to do when threatened by heavy snow, blizzards, or severe wind chills.

For example, Taylor wants it clearly known throughout the area that anyone who becomes stranded in Vermillion during a snowstorm may seek shelter at the National Guard Armory or the Public Safety Center.

He also supplied us with a lot of advice provided by the weather service. I know this all sounds simply like tidbits of common sense. But winter storms can't be taken likely. They can be killers.

When caught in a winter storm . . .

Outside: Find shelter to stay dry.

Cover all exposed parts of the body.

If no shelter is nearby, prepare a wind break or snow cave for protection.

Build a fire for heat.

Do not eat snow as it will lower your body temperature.

In a vehicle: Stay in your vehicle.

Run the motor for 10 minutes every hour, but open the windows a little to allow for proper ventilation. Make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow.

Make yourself visible to rescuers by turning on the dome light at night when running the engine. Also tie a red or other bright-colored cloth to the antenna or door.

Exercise from time to time to keep the blood circulating and to keep warm.

At home: Stay inside. Make sure you provide proper ventilation when using alternate heat sources.

If you have no heat, close off unneeded rooms and place towels under the doors.

Eat to supply heat and drink to avoid dehydration.

Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing.

Taylor notes that winter driving can be extremely hazardous at times due to poor road conditions or reduced visibilities from heavy or blowing snow. During these times, travel is difficult and dangerous, and often is not recommended. However, people still venture outdoors not knowing what they will encounter.

This is why being properly prepared is a must as it may save your life and those traveling with you. Many winter deaths can be attributed to people becoming stranded and venturing away from their vehicle.

Now is the time to pack your winter survival kit in your vehicle, just in case you do get stranded. It should include a can of sand or kitty litter, tire chains, a flashlight with extra batteries, candles and matches, an empty coffee can to be used to burn the candles for heat and to melt snow for water, caps, mittens and boots, a sleeping bag or blanket, non-perishable food, a radio, a first aid kit, and cell phone with fully-charged batteries.

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