With snow on the horizon, be wary of winter weather

Here comes winter.

Freezing weather and snow are predicted for parts of Kansas today, though the nasty stuff might miss Lawrence.

But the question remains: Are you prepared for winter?

The National Weather Service and Kansas Emergency Management have declared today Winter Weather Awareness Day.

“It’s to give people time to start thinking what they need to have in their car or in their home if we see significant snowfall,” said Sharon Watson, public affairs director for Kansas Emergency Management. “And though it normally doesn’t happen until December, now is a good time to start thinking about it.”

Winterizing your house

Consistency is important for keeping homes warm without gouging budgets as temperatures dip, said Curt Floerchinger, spokesman for Aquila Inc., which provides natural gas to more than 1 million people in the region.

“You can adjust your thermostat and put on a sweater and put your thermostat at about 68 (degrees) when you’re home or 64 (degrees) when you’re away from home or when everyone is in bed,” Floerchinger said.

He noted that natural gas prices were lower than a year ago because of a mild hurricane season and higher gas reserves.

It’s also key to keep cold air out of the home.

Bill Foust, property manager at Spirit Lake, a retreat center in southern Jefferson County, adds to his wood pile Tuesday afternoon while using a gas-powered splitter. Foust spent part of the day splitting the wood which he plans to sell and deliver this winter.

“The basic thing is just making sure you don’t have any cold air coming in the house,” said Tony Foster, manager at Home Depot, 1910 W. 31st St.

Other weatherizing improvements include additional weather stripping and insulating foam. But the more popular items, Foster said, are $10 to $30 window insulating kits.

The Kansas Emergency Management office recommends residents prepare with a home emergency kit, blankets, water and food along with extra medicines and necessities in case they’re snowed in.

Lows are expected to dip into the upper 30s tonight with possible light rain for the Wednesday morning commute.

“At first it looked like it could be the first snow or dusting for the season,” said 6News chief meteorologist Jennifer Schack. “But in the last 24 hours, the storm system looks like it is going to stay a little bit farther west. And the east side is normally warmer.”

Tune up vehicles

For drivers, the cold proves just as much a concern as it does at home.

A simple checkup of antifreeze, windshield washer fluid and tire pressure when getting a routine oil change is a start, said Danny Fox, owner of Lawrence Automotive Diagnostics, 2858 Four Wheel Drive, who notices a spike in business because of a lack of foresight on the part of vehicle owners.

“(Business) increases dramatically just because people don’t do that preventive check before winter. If they do that, it kind of eliminates all those surprises,” Fox said.

The Kansas Department of Transportation estimates about 10 percent of the 68,000 accidents last year were the result of snow and ice.

“Be informed. Plan ahead. Get information,” said Barb Blue, KDOT advanced traveler information system coordinator. “Make informed decisions, because not only does it keep (the driver) safe but it keeps everyone else safe.”

Blue points to KDOT’s 3-year-old 511 system, a 24-hour information line where callers can learn about road conditions and closures on federal and state highways including Interstate 70 between Topeka and Kansas City.

The freezing weather also will affect area farmers.

“We’re almost done with (soybean and corn) harvest so farmers will be running fast and furious to get done,” said Bill Wood, Douglas County Extension agent for agriculture. “If we get a little moisture and not a heavy snow, it shouldn’t bother us. They’ll just have to wait a couple days to dry out and then they’ll get back at it.”

Share the warmth

Discarded cold-weather items can get new lives this winter through the Share the Warmth program.
The program, sponsored by Lawrence-based Scotch Industries, collects coats, blankets, hats, scarves, mittens and gloves for distribution to area residents who can’t afford to buy their own. They will be distributed through the Salvation Army.
“A lot of people hesitate to give their clothes away because they need to be cleaned,” said Scott Shmalberg, president of Scotch Industries. “This way it’s easy. We do what we do best, which is clean. … It’s a great way to get coats out.”
Shmalberg said children’s and large sizes of coats are especially needed.
Since Oct. 30, donations have been accepted at all seven Scotch locations in Lawrence. Collections will continue through Nov. 24.