If you haven’t heard it already, here in Texas we have a saying about our weather: “If you don't like it, wait a minute.” Having lived in this state for my entire life, I can vouch for the validity of this statement. Our highs and lows can vary by 40°F for a single given day, and storms and cold snaps are known to creep up on Texans from seemingly out of nowhere.
It may sound interesting and kind of neat, but it’s very good to be aware that dangerous weather can happen around here at the drop of a hat. (On that note, if you click here, you can get weather alerts sent as texts to your cellphones! It’s really useful.) In this blog, though, I want to direct your attention to weather we may not all know how to handle and can expect more of early this semester: the Winter Weather Woes.
Sometimes it happens that you wake up in the morning and get ready to go to class thinking, “Aww man, global warming is happening! It was 70°F yesterday and it’s January, which means it surely won’t be cold this morning, right?” WRONG. This year I’ve noticed that particularly warm days have been happening just before cold snaps. So, before you throw on those shorts and get ready to jump in your car, check your weather!
If it’s been raining the night before, you especially want to make sure you check if the weather is cold enough to produce freezing weather. If you happen to hear the words “Freeze Warning” or “Winter Weather Advisory”, be sure you pay attention! These sentences are the Weather Networks’ way of telling you a few things:
- pull out the heavy coats and winter gear, leave the shorts in the closet
- Make sure any pets that live outside are kept warm enough or brought inside
- If you garden, make preparations for your plants so they don’t die
- Make sure your plumbing is protected from the cold
- Your car might be frozen over in the morning
- If it’s been raining, sleeting, or snowing roads might be frozen and/or hazardous
- Fog is a big possibility
- Keep some anti-freeze and an ice-scrapper on hand for your car just in case
When days like these are expected, sometimes it helps to get up a little bit earlier than you might normally to prepare for the day and check what the conditions in the area are on the news.
If you walk outside to a frozen car with just the windows are all lightly iced over and don’t know what to do, don’t worry! You’re not alone. The easiest thing to do when there is just a thin layer of ice on your windows is to get Lukewarm water in a container and pour it on your windows over the ice to get it to melt easily, or become easy to scrape off with a scraper. WARNING: NEVER do this with HOT water! You can risk cracking or even shattering your windows like this!
However, if you walk outside to a car that is mostly iced over, it can be a little harder to deal with. The easiest thing to do in this situation if you have the time and a place to park “indoors” like a garage that is normally occupied by someone else, go ahead and carefully thaw the door to the point that you can get it open and turn your car on with the heat all the way up. Pull into the garage and shut the door. Depending on the amount of ice, your car should unfreeze in about twenty minute if it's not very thick.
If you don’t have access to a garage though, it’s going to be more of a challenge, but it can be done! This website offers some helpful tips in getting the job done. The most simple part is using a de-icing chemical to help melt the ice down and get it to come off of your car. BE AWARE that depending on what kind of chemical you buy, it can be very dangerous for pets because it tastes sweet to them but is toxic. The link explains this a little bit more.
The most important thing to remember on days where your car is frozen is that if you can’t get it thawed safely in time to make it to class, do not try to go in your car. Try calling a friend to see if they can give you a ride in their unfrozen car, or do your best to make it to your next class as you work to make your car safe to drive.
One last subject I wanted to touch on was what to do if the roads are icy. Say you managed to banish the pesky ice off of your car but the news channel and your friends are telling you that the roads are slippery and many people have gotten into wrecks. If you have a fairly long distance to drive to get to campus and/or you are uncomfortable driving in icy conditions, it is safest to just stay at home and go when it’s safe!!! That’s right. Ten to one, any professor you have will tell you that they’d rather you were safe and could come to class for the rest of the days after that than to try and come that day and injure yourself, your car, or both to prevent you from being able to come the rest of the semester! Use your best judgment.
No matter how you have to pass those inevitably cold days, though, remember to stay warm and stay safe!