American Red Cross provides winter travel safety tips

Winter storms, including high winds, heavy snow and freezing rain can strike quickly and without warning and make driving conditions hazardous. In addition to dangerous road conditions, rapid accumulation of heavy snow can mire and even strand travelers on the road.

Whether driving across town to do that holiday shopping or traveling hundreds of miles to spend time with loved ones, planning ahead is essential to alleviating stress and staying safe in your vehicle if a winter storm emergency occurs. The American Red Cross offers the following tips to help you prepare yourself and your vehicle today for potential winter weather emergencies.

Buy and/or assemble an emergency supplies kit for your vehicle that includes:

• Battery-powered NOAA radio with extra batteries

• Blanket and/or sleeping bags

• First aid kit and manual

• Flashlight with extra batteries

• Fire extinguisher (5 pound, A-B-C type)

• Battery booster (jumper) cables and flares

• Tire repair kit and pump

• Compass, road map and knife

• Heavy sack of sand or cat litter (for tire traction) and tow rope

• Bottled water and non-perishable, high-energy foods such as peanut butter, granola or energy bars

• Extra clothing to keep dry

• Windshield scraper and brush

Preparing yourself and your vehicle before the snow and ice hit the roads could save your life.

Winterize your car before taking it on the road by taking it to a trusted mechanic. Several things can be checked such as the tire tread, radiator and fluids to make it operate better under winter storm conditions.

Keep an extra supply of blankets in the trunk in the event that you are stranded and have to wait for assistance.

During the winter months, make sure to keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

Before traveling, make sure you and all passengers have a warm coat, hat, gloves or mittens and water resistant boots. It is best to dress in several lighter layers of clothing as opposed to one large outer layer.

 It may seem obvious, but in the rush of a hectic season, it's easy to forget to check the weather before heading out.

Learn now the difference between a severe weather watch and warning, and what to do in the event of each.

Always avoid unnecessary travel during the storm, but if you absolutely must go out, use the utmost caution while driving.

Slow and Steady

Before you head out during inclement weather, remember to take your time and drive well under the speed limit. Map out a route and tell a friend or relative where you are going, which roads you'll be taking and what time you should arrive. This ensures that if you don't arrive as expected and your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

Remember, even a short trip to the grocery is dangerous if the roads are covered with ice and snow. Should you find yourself stranded or stuck in your vehicle during a storm, stay calm and take these actions until help arrives:

Stay with your car! Do not try to walk to safety as you can become quickly disoriented in bitter wind and cold and run the risk of developing hypothermia and/or frostbite.

Tie a brightly colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna so rescuers can easily see you.

Run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow or debris.

Leave the overhead light on inside the car when the engine is running so you can be seen.

While sitting, move arms and legs continuously to keep your blood circulating and to stay warm.

Keep one window away from the blowing air open to let fresh air in and reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

After the snow has stopped falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.

Continue listening to local stations after the storm has passed for updates on additional weather and road conditions.

For more information, contact the Grand Canyon Chapter at 602-336-6660 or visit www.arizonaredcross.org

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