The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Tanja Fransen
National Weather Service, Glasgow 

Montana Winter Weather Awareness Week Is October 5-9


Each year in the United States, there are an average of 7,100 weather related vehicle fatalities, accounting for 24 percent of all vehicle fatalities. This is more than all other weather related deaths combined. Winter storms also claim dozens of lives in non-vehicle related accidents, and cause hundreds of millions in damages and resources to handle the snow event. In Montana, cold weather exposure and automobile accidents are the main causes of winter weather related deaths.

Now is the time to make sure you are ready for winter weather. Check things around your home. Remove dead branches, clean out the gutters, and clean the fireplace or wood stove chimney. Stockpile enough water for everyone in your household (at least 1 gallon/person/day) for at least 3 days, including your pets. Don’t forget to dig out that snow shovel from behind the summer garden tools, and have it ready to go as well. Make sure the flashlights have good batteries.

Have your tires checked, and make sure your car is ready. Do you need new windshield wipers? Is your wiper fluid low? How are your brakes? Do you have an engine block heater for your car? Are all your headlights and taillights working? Do you have an ice scraper in the car? Have the exhaust and battery checked as well. A good mechanic can check all of these things for you and provide recommendations and fixes. And most importantly, put together a survival kit and keep it in your vehicle.

When driving this winter, remember the following:

• Bridges can be icy, even if roads are just wet. Slow down when approaching a bridge.

• Sharp turns/curves on roads are potential accident areas. Slow down before approaching them.

• Do not use cruise control on icy roads.

• Always wear your seatbelt, even in town.

• Don’t Crowd the Plow! They can’t see you very well, and sometimes not at all. Make sure you stay far enough back. If you can’t see their mirrors, you are too close.

• Wear winter weather clothing while driving. If you are in an accident it may take a while for someone to find you and responders to get there. You don’t want frostbite or hypothermia while waiting for help.

• Spend time with teen drivers to show them how to steer through a skid, and discuss the safety rules above.

Vehicle Survival Kit: It is essential to keep emergency supplies in each vehicle. The minimum items to have in a vehicle survival kit are: Cell phone/charger, water bottles, first-aid kit, mylar safety blanket, high calorie/non-perishable foods, extra clothing (i.e. gloves, fleece top), moist towelettes/paper towels/hygiene kit, ice scraper, flares/whistle to signal for help, spare tire tool kit/multi-tool.

Additional items to consider taking: Blankets/sleeping bags, flashlight/extra batteries, small camp stove/fuel, tow rope (chains are dangerous), battery booster cables or battery booster, compass/maps, small metal can with waterproof matches to melt snow, extra fuel can, small garbage bags/duct tape/electrical tap/zip ties, small bag of cat litter or sand, NOAA Emergency Weather Radio (hand crank type), fix-a-flat solution or small compressor for flat tires.

When traveling in wintertime, run through this checklist:

Fuel up and always stay above a half tank throughout your trip.

Check the statewide road conditions; dial 511 from any phone or visit

Check the forecast before leaving. Sometimes the roads are good in the location you are leaving from, but conditions may worsen as you get closer to your destination.

Tell someone where you are going, what time you leave, and the route you take to get there. Use the better traveled roads. Then call them when you arrive safely. Otherwise, they can alert officials that you are late and perhaps there is a problem.

If you run into problems, keep the following items in mind: Use a tow rope, not a chain to pull a vehicle that is stuck. Make sure it is no longer than 6 feet. Chains can backlash, and cause serious injuries or death. If a chain is the only available item, throw a heavy jacket or blanket over it before attempting to tow a vehicle out.

If you get stuck, and it looks like you may be in the vehicle for a while, do stay with the vehicle unless you can clearly see sturdier/warmer shelter. You can run the engine 10-15 minutes each hour for heat, and crack a window a bit. Keep the tailpipe clear; a hubcap or visor can be used as a shovel. Burning oil in a hubcap may allow rescuers to find you if conditions have improved.

Distress Signal is: Honk your horn for three long blasts, 10 seconds apart. Repeat every 30 seconds.

On overloaded cell phone circuits or with weak reception, sometimes a text message will go through even if a call fails. Never text and drive!

Remember to supply your pets with food, water, shelter.

Additional winter weather awareness and preparedness information is also available at: nt/winter_survival.pdf (for a hard copy, contact the NWS Glasgow office at 406-228-2850).


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