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Prepare for winter before it’s too late

  • Published
  • By R.J. Oriez
  • 90th Misisle Wing Public Affairs
Cheyenne and F.E. Warren Air Force Base received have already gotten their first taste of the winter season last week with a dusting of snow and cold temperatures.

Newcomers to F.E. Warren may not know that last winter the temperature dropped as low as 25 degrees below zero and wind gusts, at times, exceeded 60 miles-per-hour. It can be hard to comprehend what this means until the weather is experienced personally.

These conditions and Wyoming's remoteness can combine to turn something as mundane as a stalled vehicle or a flat tire into a life-threatening emergency. As in so many things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Make sure your car is in good working order. Now is the time for tune-ups and to replace balding tires.

Be aware that relatively short distances can make a huge difference in weather conditions. Laramie is less than 50 miles away, but temperatures can vary by 20 degrees or more. In between Cheyenne and Laramie is also the highest point along the entire length of Interstate 80--a point where weather conditions can be drastically different from either of the two cities. A 40 mile-per-hour cross wind on an icy road can blow your car into a ditch with little warning.

Know before you go
Check from reliable sources what the current and forecasted conditions are prior to your departure. Check the Wyoming Department of Transportation's website at for the latest road conditions and closures. Information can also be gained by calling 511 or 1-888-WYO-ROAD (1-888-996-7623).

Make room in your car for emergency supplies now. In the winter months, which can be September through May in Wyoming, I have an meal ready to eat, a cold-weather suit, a space blanket and a folding shovel in my trunk.

Many experts also recommend a supply of emergency water. However, if the water is being left in the trunk of a car in sub-zero weather, be sure it is packaged in a way to protect against the vessel breaking when the water freezes.

I keep booster cables, a flashlight, a pocket knife and a tool kit in the car year round. Any cell phone, even one not connected to an active account, can be used to call 911. Toss an old one and its charger into your glove box.

In an emergency, your most valuable survival item can be the car itself. It provides shelter against the winds blowing across the high plains; it makes it easier for rescuers to find you and it can provide warmth.

Distances can be deceiving and a wind-chill factor of 20 below zero can cause serious injuries in just a few minutes. If the structure you're heading to for help is not visible and within 100 yards of your car, stay put.

The engine can be run for warmth, but you have to be careful of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the tailpipe does not get blocked by drifting snow and open a down-wind window a crack for ventilation.

Be careful not to run out of gas. Running the engine for just 10 minutes each hour can provide needed warmth, conserve gas and guard against carbon monoxide poisoning. Be careful about how much you use the battery when the engine is not on. If the battery dies, you won't be able to start the engine.

Wyoming and Northern Colorado have plenty of opportunities for winter recreation--from snowmobiling and skiing to NCAA Division I and professional sports. Many Airmen and their families will be driving home for holiday visits. Being prepared for a bad turn in the weather can prevent a family road-trip from turning from fun to disaster.