SEATTLE, Wash. -- As the weather turns wetter and even colder, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) are encouraging individuals, families and businesses to be prepared. According to FEMA Deputy Regional Director Tammy Doherty, a few simple motorist safety tips could make the difference between inconvenience and real disaster.
"Many preparedness measures are the same for winter flooding, winter storms, blizzards and deep freeze," said Doherty. "Winter emergency kits in every car and truck can be real life savers, and vehicle fuel tanks should be kept topped off...just in case."
Washington DOT spokesperson Clarissa Lundeen agrees. "Motorists must be prepared for possible delays due to winter driving conditions," said Lundeen. "Before leaving on a trip, drivers should: check on weather conditions, fill their gas tank, check their tires, battery, windshield fluid and lights, and put a set of chains in the trunk if driving over the passes. Inside the car, store warm clothing, boots, blankets, flashlights, extra food and water and a first aid kit."
This winter, WSDOT urges motorists to be alert to changing road conditions and think safety first. Cancel or postpone trips, wait long enough for snowplows, sanding trucks and flood control crews to do their work, or use public transportation. But, if you must drive in winter weather, WSDOT offers the following tips:
- Allow yourself extra travel time. Don't get into a race with the clock.
- In case of serious flooding, get out of the car. Never attempt to drive through water on a road. Water can be deeper than it appears and water levels can rise very quickly. A car can be buoyed by flood-waters and float out of control. Wade through floodwaters only if the water is not flowing rapidly and only in water no higher than the knees. If the car stalls in floodwater, get out quickly and move to higher ground (floodwaters may still be rising and the car could be swept away).
- If possible, avoid driving in severe winter storms, but if you are caught in a storm or blizzard and your car becomes immobilized, stay in the vehicle and await rescue. Do not attempt to walk from the car unless you can see a definite safe haven at a reasonable distance. Turn on the auto engine for brief periods to provide heat, but always leave a down-wind window open slightly to avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning (make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow). Leave the dome light on at night to signal rescuers, and exercise occasionally by clapping hands or moving around.
- If driving over the mountain passes, get the latest highway and weather conditions. Call toll-free from the Greater SEATTLE, Wash. metropolitan area (206) DOT-HIWY, or 1-800-695-ROAD. Pass reports are available on-line at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov.