Extreme weather calls for caution

With wind chill warnings in effect in recent days, people are reminded that high winds sap heat faster than the cold alone.

An unprotected head can lose 40 to 45 percent of body heat, even more from an unprotected neck, wrist and ankles. Good insulation on your head and neck is half the battle. Wear clothing loose and in layers.

A heavy sleeping bag can be a life saver in a cold weather survival situation. Keep it from contacting the cold, wet ground.

Drink water to replace lost fluids. Your need for water is as great in cold weather as it is in hot weather, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

A snow cave shelter is effective because snow is a good insulator and wind screener. You need a snow drift at least nine feet high to build one. Keep the roof arched for strength and to allow melted snow to drain down the sides. Build a sleeping platform higher than the doorway.

Keep away from shelter walls or dig a small trench between you and the wall to keep yourself dry while inside, should runoff occur. A single candle or small fire the size of your hand provides enough heat to keep you warm if you build an enclosed shelter.

An empty, three-pound coffee can or similar container with a plastic cover can be used to store winter driving survival kit items. The list includes small candles and matches, a small, sharp knife and plastic spoons, a red bandanna or cloth, pencil and paper, large, plastic garbage bag, safety pins, whistle, snacks, a cell phone adapter to plug into a lighter and a plastic flashlight and spare batteries.

Reverse flashlight batteries to avoid accidental switching and burnout. Warm batteries before using them. Store safety items in the passenger compartment in case the trunk is jammed or frozen shut. Choose small packages of food you can eat hot or cold.

Suggested food includes raisins in small packets, miniature candy bars, chewing gum, wrapped, hard candy, food bars, and canned soup, meat and poultry.

Store bigger items in an accessible place like a 30-foot cord to use as a homing line if you must exit the vehicle, booster cables, basic tools, sand, cat litter or other grit in a plastic, milk carton, shovel, tow cables or chain, sleeping bag or blankets, road flares and reflectors and a snowmobile suit and heavy boots.

If you become stranded in any part of Minnesota and have a cell phone, call 911 for help. In other states, you may be able to dial 911 or 0 to reach an operator.

If you must leave your vehicle, write down your name, address, phone number and destination. Place the piece of paper inside the front windshield for someone to see.

If you stall or get stuck, tie a colored banner to your antenna or hang it out a window. At night, remove the dome light cover and leave it on. To reduce battery drain, use emergency flashers only if you hear approaching vehicles.

Run the engine and heater for 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. Clear snow from the exhaust pipe and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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