Ahead of the 2014 Christmas Week, weather forecasters are warning of the potential for at least two storms that could impact the Lower 48. While forecasts beyond three days carry a degree of uncertainty, there’s a good chance weather will impact holiday travel this year.
Preparing the home, family, and car for winter trips is something many of us don’t think much about. The hectic season often finds people loading the family car or van at the last minute and stopping at the gas station on the way out of town. There are a few things you can do to make sure both your home and your family are safe while you travel.
Before you leave, check the weather and be aware of the potential for storms that might increase the potential for hazardous driving conditions. Consider adjusting travel to account for changing weather conditions.
Secure Your Home
Set your water heater for vacation mode if you’ll be gone more than a few days. It saves energy and there’s no need to keep the water hot if you’re not using it.
Turn off the faucets that supply your washing machines. The rubber hoses can burst unexpectedly and very quickly flood your home.
Turn down the thermostat. It only takes a short time to bring the temperature back to normal after you return. A setting of 55 to 60 degrees is good and will save a fair amount of energy while you’re gone.
Put a few lights on timers and set them to go on and off at different times. In a bedroom, for example, the light can go on and off several times during the evening, while the living room light can stay on all the time.
Stop the mail if you’re leaving for a week or more. Service will resume when you pick up your mail at the post office. Also stop newspapers and have a neighbor watch for unexpected deliveries. Telling your neighbor let’s them know you’re not home and they can alert police of suspicious activity.
While turning the thermostat down saves money, having the electricity off due to a winter storm can result in burst pipes when they freeze. The resulting flood is disastrous. A standby generator operates automatically to keep the lights on, the furnace running, and your refrigerator cold.
Before you leave, don’t forget to perform scheduled maintenance.
Prepare Your Vehicle
While you check air pressure in the tires, look at the treads. A good way to measure depth is to insert a penny headfirst into the tread. If the top of Lincoln’s head disappears into the groove, the tread is fine. If it doesn’t, you may need new tires.
Your car might get along okay if the coolant is low, especially in the winter. However, the heater relies on waste heat from the engine and low coolant may mean poor heat while you travel. Check the coolant level when the engine is cold and add engine coolant mixed with distilled water according to the weather conditions you expect to find. The manufacturer should give directions on the bottle.
Each person in the car should have two bottles of water and a warm blanket in case of emergency. Keep a three-wick candle and matches (not a butane lighter) in the car. The candle will raise the inside temperature as much as twenty degrees if you are stranded. A few protein bars and candy bars will provide energy and help keep you warm in an emergency.
If you are stranded, run the engine only as necessary. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and when the engine runs, crack the windows for fresh air.
Make sure each person has their coat, warm hat, and warm gloves or mittens. Even on short trips, finding yourself stranded after an accident or breakdown without warm clothing can turn uncomfortable or even deadly in a very short time.
Remember. Winter roads can slow travel and make driving hazardous. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to rush, and drive carefully this holiday season.