Never mind what you have read or heard about winter being shorter and less severe. (See: Scientists: Winter arriving ever later,” Oct. 25 Times-News, Page 5A.)
All you need to know is that winter is coming. In some places, it’s already here. Parts of Garrett County had four inches’ worth of it recently.
The Maryland State Highway Administration says it’s ready for winter.
That’s what it says every year about this time, and experience tells us to take these people at their word. This is what they do for a living.
Tony Crawford, District 6 SHA engineer, said that even though last winter was one of the mildest on record, “We are prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.” (See: “SHA ready for winter’s worst,” Oct. 26 Times-News, Page 1A.)
SHA has prepared its snow removal equipment and stockpiled highway treatment material. Rather than wait until the storm to begin treating with salt or other chemicals, crews pretreat highways with salt brine, a mid of 73 percent water and 27 percent salt. District 6 has 72,000 tons of salt stored in its 17 domes.
Heavy-duty trucks will be used to distribute salt wherever it’s needed, including Allegany County. They can carry more than double the amount of salt and will be helpful in clearing long stretches of rural highway, where there is little opportunity to refill them.
The rest of us also need to get ready. Crawford said motorists should prepare their vehicles for winter, before it hits and after it’s here.
Clear snow from headlights, windows, the roof or other places where it may accumulate and obstruct vision or become a danger to other motorists. Those who watch The Weather Channel probably have seen dashboard-camera footage of what happens when a slab of snow or ice flies off a car or truck and slams into the vehicle behind it.
AAA Mid-Atlantic says this would be a good time to have your mechanic conduct a seasonal check of your car, and you shouldn’t put it off any longer. Periodic checkups maximize efficiency and minimize breakdowns; being stranded beside the road at any time of year is bad, and it’s even worse during winter.
Here is what you should do:
• Clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections and wash all surfaces with battery terminal cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water. Have the battery checked to ensure it is strong enough to face cold weather.
• Have any engine drivability problems corrected at a reputable repair shop. Symptoms like hard starts, rough idling, stalling or diminished power could signal a problem that would be exacerbated by cold weather.
• Replace worn windshield-wiper blades. One-piece beam-type or rubber-clad “winter” blades can help fight snow and ice build-up. Use cold-weather windshield washer solvent and carry a brush and ice-scraper.
• Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace burned out bulbs. Clean road grime or clouding from all lenses.
• Have your mechanic check the exhaust system for leaks and look for any holes in the trunk and floorboards.
• Examine tires for tread depth and uneven wearing. Check tire pressures once a month, when tires are cold, before driving for any distance.
• Program your cell phone with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services, and keep a car charger handy.
If you’re travel any distance, particularly out of town, it helps to have an emergency kit that includes drinking water, first-aid kit, abrasive material (sand or traction mats), snow shovel, blankets, extra warm clothing (heavy coat, gloves, hats and scarves), flashlight with extra batteries, paper towels and a basic tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers and an adjustable wrench.