As winter approaches, now is the time to be thinking about the things you can do to help you cope with the possible conditions we might have. It is difficult to miss the more variable weather we've been having in recent years, not forgetting the global situation where there seems to be an increasing amount of severe weather. In years gone by, we have experienced a lot more snow and cold weather than has been the norm over more recent decades. There is no reason why this winter won't be worse than any we've experienced previously.
To help you through what could be a bad winter, ensure you have plenty of warm clothing - both to wear and to change into if what you're wearing gets wet. Cold is a killer and it's essential you have good back-up plans in case things go 'pear-shaped'. Consider what might not be available if there's a prolonged power cut during a frosty spell ? Also consider what would happen if you can't get out or food supply lorries can't reach the shops. Stock up on food - canned, frozen or anything that will keep for several weeks; just in case. Keep some matches and a few candles handy, with suitable holders for safety. If you don't already have a torch, it's a good idea to make sure you have one available just in case.
Tools - make sure you have tools to deal with cold weather: de-icer and snow shovels etc.
Warm and waterproof clothing will help you keep warm and dry. Consider Wellington boots if going out in snow. Wear several layers of clothing - with pockets so you can keep things in 'warmer pockets' if they need to be kept warm and dry. Consider getting Yaktrax (pictured right); which fit over the soles your shoes and offer much better grip in bad conditions. So much so that the local NHS is offering them to their staff, such as District Nurses that have to be out and about as part of their job. However, they're no substitute for crampons if you were thinking of using them up the mountains - don't !
When out and about, whether walking, in the car or using public transport, always allow extra time for your journeys - trying to rush increases the risk of having an accident.
|Check that windows are closing properly to keep out the draughts - if not, see about getting them fixed before the really cold spell starts. If you have oil-fired heating make sure you have enough oil for several weeks - don't let the tank run nearly empty as delivery tankers may not be able to get to you when you need the oil. Make sure outside water pipes are
either drained of water or heavily lagged. Also check pipe lagging in the loft/attic and any other unheated location. Consider frost-protection heating - giving a little heat in the coldest of weathers. United Utilities have more useful information regarding coping with the cold weather.
|Check the anti-freeze content in the radiator and the screen washer bottle - or have them checked by your garage. Have de-icer to hand - a can in use and a new can besides. Have jump-leads, a folding shovel and warm clothing in the boot - in case you get stranded. A bottle of drinking water would be advisable too. Check the tread on the tyres, consider 'winter grade' tyres which perform much better in the cold and on bad surfaces. Keep the fuel tank well topped up.
Covering the windows at night will prevent dew forming and freezing on them - reducing the amount of clearing needed in the morning. Don't drive unless the windscreen is completely clear of ice and snow and ensure you can see out of the back and side windows as well. Use the rear screen heater (demister) as it will help clear snow and ice from the glass. Side windows may be wound down to get a clear view. If these are electric, they may jam or otherwise become damaged trying to open - be ready to stop them if they do. You should also make sure your lights, reflectors and number plates are clean and unobstructed.
|Cumbria Constabulary has further advice on winter driving. Also remember:
The Highways Agency, responsible for many main roads across the country, has a few pages of winter driving advice on its website.
- Allow plenty of time for your journeys - you might be delayed an hour or more if there's been an accident or other incident closing a road.
- Rushing in bad weather is also a recipe for disaster.
- Even if it hasn’t rained overnight, a heavy frost can still make roads slippery.
- Watch out for icy conditions under bridges, overhanging trees and exposed roads.
- Allow extra time in the morning to de-ice your car windows – and then clean all of them so you have a good view.
- Keep screen-wipes in the car; ensuring you always have at least one clean unused one that doesn't leave streaks on the inside of the glass. Streaks and/or a film of 'dirt' can significantly reduce your visibility when on-coming headlights make the problem worse.
- On a cold, clear morning there is a greater risk of being dazzled by low sun through a frosty windscreen. Include sunglasses in your winter driving kit.