Snow hacks: How to survive winter

Posted at 1:40 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-22 14:18:59-05

Remember being a kid, when you looked forward to snow days? It meant no school and a day of playing in the snow.

Let’s be honest— winter weather can be a real inconvenience once you grow up.

Here are some snow hacks that might make it a little easier to take.

Be prepared for the great outdoors

If you’re going to be trekking through the wilderness on a cold, snowy day, have a first aid kit with you that has more than just Band-Aids, said Manny Fonseca, director of field services and chief operating officer for the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts America.  

Think flares, waterproof matches and a change of clothing, Fonseca said. And don’t forget your H2O. When it’s cold out, people tend to reach for the hot drinks, but that causes your body temperature to fluctuate. Water helps to prevent hypothermia, Fonseca said.

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“People for the most part are good about bringing a water bottle, but it’s not enough,” said Ranger Roy Musselwhite of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Cpl. Murray Hunt, a diver with the state Natural Resources Police, said he sees too many people on the water in the winter without their life jackets, which can also help seal in warmth in addition to keeping you afloat if you go overboard.

Phil Burns, the co-owner of the American Preppers Network, a survivalist group dedicated to helping people prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies, reminds motorists to keep their gas tanks half full if they’re going out in inclement weather.

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“The thought is, if you have half a tank, you can get back to where you came from,” Burns said.

In the unlucky event that you end up stranded in your car in the middle of nowhere, you can punch a hole in the side of your gas tank, light your spare tire on fire and the plume of black smoke will hopefully alert passersby that you’re in trouble, Burns said.   

“The foam inside your car seats can do the same thing,” Burns said.

Home maintenance

Don’t ignore those gutters.

Philip Hall, service manager for Gaithersburg-based Shanco Companies, a home improvement business, said about 50 percent of customers don’t bother with maintenance on their gutters—and then that becomes a problem in winter.

Clean your gutters thoroughly in the fall, and the colder months will be a lot easier to deal with, Hall said.

Homeowners should also make sure their gutters aren’t loose. Hall said gutters that are tightly secured are less likely to get damaged by ice.

Once snow falls, it’s pretty easy to ruin your deck if you don’t clear it off correctly.

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The home repair website advises homeowners to run the shovel lengthwise across the boards to minimize scratching or cutting the wood. You could also use a plastic shovel, and avoid salt and other ice melting substances, because they could damage the finish.

Winter travel

While it’s important to make sure your battery is healthy and you have enough anti-freeze on hand, none of that matters much if you have worn out tires and you’re sliding all over the road and possibly getting into an accident, said James Mann, general manager of Tyre’s Auto Repair in Timonium.

An easy way to get more traction on snow-covered roads is by lowering the pressure in your tires, Mann said.

Just don’t forget to pump them back up once conditions improve.

The Baltimore/Washington area is full of transplants from all over the country, some of whom have more experience driving in snow than others, said Bob Rager, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

And while it may seem like common sense, it happens every winter—drivers in a hurry try to blow past snow plows that are working to clear the roads, Rager said.

“It would be nice if people thought of it as slush hour, not rush hour,” Rager quipped.