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Be ready this time

Oct 3, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Incredibly, another heavy snowstorm's arrival is imminent

You know all those public service announcements about "winter preparedness"?

Well, nights like Thursday and days like Friday are what they are all about.

By the time winter actually arrives, most of us are more or less "prepared," especially if we have lived in this part of the country for a while. We have located our coats, our gloves and hats, our boots, our snow shovels. We have unhooked our garden hoses, had the sprinklers blown out, and checked the anti-freeze in our cars. If we have snow tires, we probably have put them on. We have taken off the screens, locked most of the windows, and put a coffee can full of sidewalk de-icer near the front door.

But when winter comes when it's still practically summer, the idea of "preparedness" becomes much more important.

We got a shocking reminder of that just a week ago when, barely four days after summer had ended, winter weather arrived with fury.

How many of us can say, honestly, that we were "prepared" for it?

Now, almost incredibly, another heavy winter storm is bearing down on our part of Wyoming. No one can say with certainty that it will be as powerful as the one last week, but the forecasters are saying it might be. We all could be forgiven if we cleaned up the broken branches after last week's snow, blessed the power company for restoring the electricity, and then checked off last week's storm as a fluke of nature, then put off getting prepared for winter for another six weeks.

That would be a mistake. The weather pros say we're likely to get a repeat performance in the next 24 to 36 hours. Winter storms in the summer landscape are particularly dangerous, because, as we learned anew last week, leaf-bearing trees snap under the weight of snowfall with frequency far exceeding that of leafless trees in winter.

That's why we got so many downed branches last week and why we had so many power outages as well. As the branches fell, they took power lines with them.

That danger is returning over the next day or two, and with the recent storm still fresh in memory, it pays to be prepared.

What does that mean? Several things. Generally, it is recommended that you take a few minutes to consider the situation you would be in in your normal existence if electrical power were to fail for an extended period of time.

Once you have assessed those contingencies, then take another five minutes and think about what you would do about them.

Some general ideas are these: Have a way to keep warm at home, even if the power fails or a window breaks. Have some food on hand that won't spoil. Think peanut butter, protein bars, bottled water, nuts and dried fruit, boxed cereal. Canned goods are fine, but make sure you have a can opener that you know how to use that does not rely on electric power. If you think you might need help in an emergency, or have a neighbor or family member who might, consider ahead of time how you might get assistance to the person, or how assistance might reach you. Wireless telephone service often will continue to be operable even when telephone land lines are damaged by storm. Make sure your cell phone is charged. On a similar note, have batteries on hand, and some safe, votive-style candles that you can light for basic lighting requirements.

Don't be hesitant about putting your winter coat on in the house, or getting in bed under warm blankets if you need to. If you have a fireplace that you can operate safely, then now is the time to have some wood available for it.

Know where the water supply enters your house, and locate the valve that shuts it off if a pipe breaks.

Stay calm, and try to think clearly. Rarely, even in the dead of winter, does a storm in a populated area incapacitate emergency services for more than a day or two. By all means do not try to do something requiring extraordinary physical effort. Investigation after the fact shows that many storm-related injuries and deaths occurred because citizens try to do something that was unnecessary.

The best advice is be prepared and sit tight. There is no question that late-summer and early fall in Fremont County have been uncharacteristically wet and stormy. We can't do anything about that, but we can be ready for it and respond to it sensibly.

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MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Wednesday's edition of The Ranger was delivered to the Riverton post office by 3:30 p.m., in time to meet the postal deadline for next-day mail delivery.

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