Stay Safe: Get Ready for Snow

Safety Girl reads the weather reports, too, and she has some snow tips for the neighborhood.


A few inches of snow is no big deal in other parts of the country, but we’ve already been reminded this season that Seattle can grind to a halt under anything more than a light dusting. Here is a quick refresh before the snow flies:

  • Run errands early
  • Stay aware of changing weather conditions
  • Prevent slip-and-falls
  • Don’t let your pipes freeze
  • Be careful on the roads

Run errands early

Don’t wait until the snow is falling before you head out for supplies. Make a pit stop at the grocery or hardware store for any snow supplies you may need. Pick up enough groceries for the duration of the storm, so you won’t be forced to venture out in bad weather. Remember things like a bag of rock salt for the front steps, cat litter or traction grit to keep in your car, and fresh batteries for flashlights in case the power goes out.

Stay aware of changing weather conditions

Snow and storm forecasting is more reliable than it used to be, but still no sure thing. If you’re headed to work or a social event near the time a storm is predicted, keep an eye outside and don’t be afraid to leave if the weather starts to take a turn for the worse.

It’s also best, if you can, to head for home around sunset. Outdoor temperatures drop—and ice forms much more quickly—soon after dark.

Prevent slip-and-falls

When you go out, wear shoes with good tread and try to avoid carrying heavy loads (another reason to grocery shop beforehand). Slips are a frequent cause of injuries during the winter months, and a sprained wrist or broken tailbone can really ruin your month.

When you have an outside entrance to your home, it’s important to shovel and salt your porch steps and your front walk so you or your visitors don’t fall. This is more common several days into a storm, when old snowy footprints turn into uneven ice. Spread rock salt every day, shoveling beforehand if necessary.

Don’t let your pipes freeze

Homedwellers- if the temperature drops below freezing, take precautions to avoid broken pipes. Letting faucets run a slight trickle of water overnight can prevent freezing and bursting. If you’re concerned about water waste, put large containers underneath the faucets, and use the water the following day.

If you own your home or townhouse, you may want to check out more detailed information about insulating your plumbing and preventing frozen pipes.

Be careful on the roads

If you’re not confident in your ability to drive in the snow, or if your vehicle is not prepared for snowy conditions, it’s best to stay home or take the Metro. In the last snow post we covered making a storm kit, chaining your car, and steering out of a skid.

And remember, 4WD does not improve your braking:


Stay Safe: Driving in Winter Storms

Resident Ravenna Safety Girl, Shannon, has another emergency preparedness column for us this Tuesday. You may find it extremely relevant to your lives in the next couple days.


East-bound NE 75th St at 4 pm on November 22

You’ve all now seen first-hand the organized, thoughtful way most Seattle residents respond to winter weather. Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you go through the next several days:

Before you go

Keep your gas tank full

A glance at the television shows you the importance of this one. In heavy winter weather, there is no way to know how long it will actually take you to get somewhere, so a full tank will give you peace of mind and get you home. It’s also important to keep your car full of gas when the temperature drops, as it will help prevent your gas line from freezing.

Carry a storm kit

Before leaving for a trip or even a long commute, equip your car with blankets, bottled water and food (a jar of peanut butter or a bag of trail mix is good), flares or a safety triangle, car charger, and anything else you think is necessary for your trip. Put it all in a cardboard box and drop it in the trunk, and you’re good for the winter.

Remember to include a sack or two of cat litter for traction. If you are skidding, dig out the area just in front of your tires and pour some litter there to help get out of a slick spot.

On the road

Chain up

If you have chains for your car, make sure you know how to use them… the side of the road in Snoqualmie Pass is not the ideal time to learn the quirks of your particular set of chains. When you go out to chain up, pull the passenger-side floor mat out of the car to kneel on as you work– much better than lying in the snow. Use cable ties to help secure the loose ends of your chains, especially if your set just has S-hooks at the end.

Remember, if your car is chained up it is NOT safe to drive over 30 miles per hour. You don’t want to drive faster than that anyway though; if you’re driving at near-highway speeds and one end of your chain comes unfastened, it will chew up 4+ inches of your car fender in seconds.

Drive safely

Use your noggin here… if it’s a steep hill, don’t drive down it. If local residents have blocked off a side street, assume they have a good reason for warning you away from it. Stick to arterials, and leave extra time to get to your destination. If you can avoid driving in to work, do so- it’s safer to be on a Metro bus or a train in winter weather.

Learn to steer out of a skid! Braking is what will get you in trouble on snow and ice. Road Trip America has more information about how to recover from a skid.

And, of course, if you can telecommute or take the day off, it’s safest to just stay home in snowy and icy conditions.

An aside about power outages

If you’re at home and your power goes out, turn off your main breaker until the power comes back on (you can tell by watching the streetlights). Especially around dinnertime or during chores, it’s hard to remember what was turned on and what was hot after the electricity has been off for several hours.

Many fires are started after power outages end because people forget that they were cooking, using irons or hair appliances, or doing other work when the electricity was cut off. If we’re in the middle of cooking dinner and the power goes out, what do we tend to do? Go out to eat! In the hustle to get oriented and find a place to go, many folks forget that they left the stove on and so come home to a fire afterward. Turning electricity off at the breaker during an outage will keep you out of this situation.

You can get more local information at (they have a mobile site as well) or @WinterByStorm. Stay safe out there!