Gov. John Hickenlooper declared Oct. 21-27 Winter Weather Preparedness week in Colorado but residents should be prepared all the time.
Winters in Colorado can be brutal bringing heavy snow, bitter cold, high winds, low visibility and slick roads. Driving can be treacherous in these conditions and the weather can also pose other life threatening situations. People have died from weather related traffic accidents, exposure and in fires caused by space heaters.
The National Weather Service has said that past blizzards and snowstorms are a reminder of how dangerous the weather can be in Colorado and they warn people to be prepared for winter storms and cold weather. They caution that those people new to the state should familiarize themselves with NWS warnings and watches and other winter safety procedures.
A snowstorm can trap people in their cars or homes for days without food, heat and/or other utilities. It is best not to leave one's home or car to try to walk or get help. Exposure to the cold can cause hypothermia and frostbite eventually leading to loss of fingers, toes and even death.
For winter travel motorists should have good tires on their cars, keep tire chains and tow ropes, battery cables and sand or cat litter for traction. They should also keep a first aid kit, a shovel, blankets, water, food, matches and an empty can to melt snow for drinking. To check road conditions visit www.cotrip.org. The weather service recommends not even travelling if the roads are too treacherous.
Another safety trip for winter involves avalanches. Many people don't think they need to know this information because they don't ski or snowboard however according to NWS Colorado leads the nation in the number of avalanche fatalities in the past 10 years. Colorado averages at least six fatalities as a result of avalanches per year.
Most avalanches happen during or after a snowstorm. Many avalanches are human caused. NWS recommends that when skiing or snowboarding to stay on the marked path. When on the slopes, hiking, snowshoeing or out on the snowmobile never go alone and carry avalanche rescue equipment including an avalanche beacon.
Tom Magnuson, warning coordination meteorologist for NWS Pueblo, a lot of people that are out cross country skiing or snowshoeing don't think they're in danger of an avalanche when they are at the base of the mountain.
“There's a possibility of an avalanche occurring while you're driving through the mountains,” Magnuson said.
Magnuson said it's important for people to check the weather conditions and heed all warnings before going out in winter weather.
“The most important thing is to be aware of what's going on and know where to get the info,” Magnuson said.
He said that many people who get caught in a storm claim that they weren't aware of it but it's hard not to be aware when it's all over the news, Internet and social media websites.
For more information on winter weather tips, how to prepare for a storm, what to do if caught in a storm and winter weather terms visit http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/winter/resources/Winter_Storms2008.pdf.
Brochures are also available to print at www.weather.gov/om/brochures.shtml.