Kansas City, Mo. -- Thanksgiving, the first big winter holiday, is almost here. Soon, Americans will take to the road to share the holidays with family and friends. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges residents to plan now for the special hazards that winter brings.
"The memory of the severe ice storm that swept through the Midwest in January is still fresh here," said Dick Hainje, Regional Director for FEMA Region VII. "With the busiest travel weekend of the year upon us, we want to make sure that everyone arrives safely no matter what weather comes our way."
Winter weather and winter travel can be a dangerous combination. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to snow and ice occur in automobiles. Before heading out on the road this holiday season, you should winterize your car. Be sure to check the ignition, cooling, fuel and exhaust systems, battery, lights, tires, heater, brakes, wipers, defroster and oil. In the winter, it is advisable to keep the fuel tank full.
Be aware of weather conditions. Allow extra time for winter travel. Don't travel alone and keep others informed of your schedule. Know safe driving routes. Stay on main roads and avoid back-road shortcuts.
Carry a "winter car kit." It should include a shovel, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, ice scraper, paper towels, extra clothes, blankets, matches and candles, booster cables, a compass, maps, emergency flares, sand and road salt, tow chain, and high calorie non-perishable food and water. A cell phone or two-way radio, if available, should complete the kit. Prepare a similar kit for your home, as well.
Winter storms accounted for five national major disasters and eight emergency declarations in 2001 as well as five major disasters and one emergency declaration to date in 2002. The severe weather damaged homes and businesses from New York to Oregon.
For more information and tips on what you can do to prepare for winter weather, visit www.fema.gov.