With amber warning issues, major disruptions to transport, and shortages of loafs of bread as people stock up – it’s time to prepare for the snow storm promised to head in from the East. It’s best to stock up on supplies while you can, before the worst of the weather sets in (which is expected to be from Wednesday to Friday). This way, you can leave the house as little as possible, and stay cosy inside with a cup of tea, under the wraps of a few blankets and watching the weather unfurl from the window. If you do need to go outside for any reason, we’ve put together a guide to getting around in the snow while staying safe.
Check weather warnings before leaving the house
It’s good to get into the habit of checking weather warnings just before you leave. These are updated frequently, and checking can help you plan the safest journey.
Interpreting snow warnings
Snow levels can vary greatly over relatively small area. Just because you can’t see much snow, it doesn’t mean there will be equally little at your destination. Most sites (for example Met Office) will tell you how many centimetres of snow there will be over what distance. Take a little time to decipher this information to give you the clearest idea of what route you should take.
Check your sources
Make sure you’re getting the information from a credible, reliable source. Social media and things you hear from others are useful in their own ways (reports and photos can help build up a good idea of what’s happening locally) but it’s good to check credible weather reporting websites too. The same goes for weather apps and online city forecasts – these mostly use automated data, and therefore aren’t the most reliable of sources.
Don’t drive unless you need to
Ask yourself if you really need to leave the house, bearing in mind the possibility of having accident, or even becoming stranded.
Leave lots of time and prepare your car
You don’t want to be rushing in the snow, it’s a recipe for disaster. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get to where you’re going. Your car should be ready for a journey into the snow – with a full tank, and supplies such as food, water, warm clothing and/or a blanket, sand/cat litter, a first aid kit, a torch, a shovel, supplies to remove ice from the car and a phone. Although it seems hyperbolic, these could come in very useful, and it does no harm to be prepared. Check the fluid levels in your car, and be sure to be using a screen wash with an additive to prevent freezing.
Before you drive
Make sure you’ve removed the snow from your car before you leave – this will need to be a thorough job. Clear the ice from the entirety of your window screen, as well as clearing the side and rear windows, front and rear lights and mirrors. Don’t use hot water as the temperature change could be dangerous. Be sure to have your route planned out, sticking to major roads where possible. Check your tyres have enough grip (at least 3mm of tread) and any auto-wiper control you have is switched off (as they may have frozen to the windscreen).
Driving in the snow
To drive as safely as possible, use low revs and go up to a higher gear as soon as you can. Make your change controls as slowly and progressively as possible, as abrupt changes can cause your tyres to loose grip. In an automatic, you’ll want to be on low-ratio mode, usually shown by an ‘L’ symbol, or a snowflake. Make sure the car in front is at a safe stopping distance, which in icy conditions, should be around 20 seconds (you can measure this by watching it pass an object, then counting the seconds until you also pass this object). Keep your window screen clear at all times and put on your headlights whenever necessary.
What to do if your car skids
If your car begins to skid, take your foot off the accelerator, and don’t hit the brakes (this will only prolong the skid). When skidding, if the car begins to spin, steer in the direction of the spin to straighten up.
If your car becomes stuck
Stay calm and don’t panic. Resist spinning your tires, as it will only dig the car in deeper, as well as potentially damaging your tires. With your car in the lowest gear, try to back up slowly, stop, and then shift the car forward. Hopefully, this back and forth movement will help it gain some grip. If this fails, repeat the back and forth movement while also turning the wheel. If your car still won’t budge, try and dig out some of the snow from around the wheels. Use something like sand, cat litter, gravel or even cardboard, put this under your back wheels to help grip.
We hoped this helped, and that you spend your snow days enjoyably (and hopefully not stranded anywhere). The weather is expected to be, in some areas, the coldest spell since 1991. Make sure you wrap up warm and stay safe while getting around in the snow!