A winter storm that dropped a foot or more of snow in the upper Midwest, caused a 25-car fatal pileup in Iowa and closed roads and schools in northern and western Kansas left just a light dusting of snow in Pratt County Thursday morning.
The area was in a winter advisory, when weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous, but if caution is exercised, the situation should not become life threatening.
"Pay attention to the warnings," urged Tim Branscom, Pratt County emergency manager. "Have a plan, know who your contacts are and during travel, give yourself extra time."
News reports indicated that people in south central Kansas, where snow was light, needed an extra 30 to 45 minutes to get where they were going, he said, reminding drivers to leave time to completely clear windows.
"Don't try to drive through a peephole," he warned.
Clearing just a portion of the windshield could lead to an accident or a traffic ticket.
Branscom's tips for winter driving safety start with a simple one: If you don't have to get out, stay home. People get stranded and emergency response agencies have to send someone out to get them, or they get in the way of snow removal equipment, he said, commenting especially on a 30-inch snow a few years ago that all but paralyzed Pratt.
If stranded, it's smartest to stay in the vehicle; even if you can see a building, walking to it in deep snow may be more than a person can handle. Run the motor intermittently, if needed to keep warm — about 10 minutes every hour — and open a window a crack to lessen the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
If a driver is stranded, he or she needs a survival kit, but it's too late then to assemble one and stash it in the car. Do that at the beginning of the season, even before severe weather is forecast. Items to put in it include bottled water, non-perishable food, heavy clothing and blankets, a first aid kit, and a flashlight with extra batteries.
A small shovel can be useful to clear snow away from the car's exhaust. Branscom said that when their children were small, they often tucked in a couple of games to keep them entertained if necessary. Use cell phones sparingly until help arrives.
Keep the gas tank full and the car well-maintained. Check fluid levels and tire pressure and replace wiper blades if needed.
If travel is necessary when storms are predicted, drivers can get road information from the Kansas Department of Transportation by dialing 5-1-1, from the Highway Patrol at *47 on a cell phone, or from the Kansas Turnpike Authority at *KTA. Drivers should let family or others know when they're leaving, when they expect to arrive and the route they're taking, Branscom said, and keep them updated if they pull off to wait out a storm.
In anticipation of possible power outages, supplies should be stocked at home as well: water, medicines, food that can be eaten without much heating, flashlights and batteries and food for pets.
Don't use portable heating devices that burn diesel fuel or charcoal in the house, and keep outside generators away from windows.
Don't forget about pets. Provide shelter in a garage or bring them inside when temperatures or wind chills drop, and make sure they have access to water and food.
If power is out for an extended time, emergency departments and the Red Cross will probably open "warming centers," where people can come for a short time and get some hot food.
On your phone
Travelers may subscribe to free text or e-mail message alerts about current conditions on the routes they travel. Subscribers to My Kansas 511 select the route, the time of the day and the type of information they want, such as road closures or National Weather Service warnings.
Visit www.kandrive.org, Kansas Department of Transportation's traveler information portal, and select "Plan Your Drive" or "Get More Travel Info."