Winter weather: Plan now

State and National Weather Service officials say that, despite South Dakota's generally mild fall, it isn't too early to make preparations for winter weather.

Wednesday, Oct. 26, is Winter Weather Preparedness Day in South Dakota. Officials with the State Departments of Transportation and Public Safety are joining with the NWS to urge citizens to use the day as a reminder to find that vehicle survival kit and brush up on winter travel and survival tips and techniques.

"The National Weather Service will do everything we can to provide timely and accurate weather information to get you through the storms,'' said Todd Heitkamp of the NWS office in Sioux Falls.  "You can help yourself by making preparations now for the winter weather. Give yourself and your family every chance to come through the storms safely.''

A first step in preparation is locating and restocking the vehicle winter survival kits, said Public Safety Secretary Trevor Jones.

"A basic kit should include blankets, water, non-perishable foods, a flashlight with fully charged batteries, a shovel and a distress flag,'' Jones said. "No winter trip should begin without those items in the vehicle. A charged cell phone is essential, too. It won't save you by itself, but if you are stranded, that phone can be a vital link to help – if the battery is fully charged.''

Checking weather and road conditions before winter trips is another survival tip. The State Transportation Department recently unveiled an upgraded road-condition reporting system, www.safetravelusa.com/sd.

"The changes in SafeTravelUSA are designed to give travelers the kind of up-to-date road and weather conditions they need to make safe travel decisions,'' said Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist. "We encourage you to visit the site or call 511 before you travel. We also encourage all South Dakotans to brush up on winter weather survival plans. Winter Weather Preparedness Day is a good day for that, but any day is a good one to plan for the safety of you and your loved ones.''

  • Other winter-travel safety reminders include:
  • Keep an eye on the weather and check travel conditions before leaving home.
  • Be flexible and change travel plans if weather conditions deteriorate.
  • Wear seatbelts.
  • Travel during the day when possible and allow extra time to reach your destination.
  • Use highly traveled roads and highways.
  • Keep family and friends informed of your travel route and schedule.

For the latest weather forecasts and warnings this winter season, visit www.weather.gov, and for winter travel conditions, visit www.safetravelusa.com/sd or call 511.

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