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Editorial: Be prepared for winter

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opinion Ellsworth, 54011
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Time again to be ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store for Western Wisconsin this winter.

Winter conditions can threaten people's safety. Winter storms are considered deceptive because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm, such as traffic accidents, exposure to the cold or carbon monoxide poisoning. Prepare by winterizing vehicles and homes, assemble a disaster kit and have a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards or commercial radio with fresh batteries.

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For winter driving, plan those travels and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm. Learn the latest road conditions by visiting www.511wi.gov or calling 511. Vehicles' gas tanks should be kept near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Carry a winter storm kit including: blankets or sleeping bags, flashlight with extra batteries, first aid kit, shovel, tools, booster cables and windshield scraper, high-calorie non-perishable food and sand or cat litter to use for traction.

At home, have a fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector, extra medications and baby items, if appropriate, proper ventilation for any emergency heating sources, such as a fireplace or space heater, and plenty of food, water and shelter for pets.

Know what it means when the National Weather Service issues storm warnings and watches. A winter storm watch indicates heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain are possible within the next 36-48 hours. The weather forecast should be monitored.

A winter storm or ice storm warning indicates a significant winter event is occurring or will occur within the next 24 hours. This combination of snow, sleet, freezing rain and moderate winds will impact travel and outdoor activities. If the warning is for an ice storm, it will be issued when mostly freezing rain is expected with ice accumulations of one-quarter inch or more within a 12-hour period. Everyone should take necessary precautions and travelers should consider canceling their travel plans.

A blizzard warning is issued when winds of 35 mph or greater are expected in combination with falling and/or blowing snow, reducing visibility to one-quarter mile or less for at least three hours. In general about winter, residents should anticipate almost anything, ranging from killer dense fog and flooding rains to widespread heavy snows and blizzards that can isolate a community for days. After all, the only month during which a tornado hasn't happened in Wisconsin is February.

Preparations are important because winter always poses a challenge. Typically, there are around 20,000 vehicle accidents in the state during winter months, when roads are covered with ice, snow or slush. On average in the state, about 75 people are killed and 7,000 people are injured each winter season in accidents. Many crashes are caused by "driving too fast for current conditions." Also, when the first blast of winter arrives, motorists often need to "re-learn" how to drive in slippery conditions. In late winter, heavy rains or early spring can result in flooded roads, so "turn around--don't drown!"

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