Get ready — it really is winter

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Back in November, I wore a winter coat because it was cold outside.

Since then, it has been around 45 degrees almost every day. I wore a light sweater to church this morning and felt just fine.

This is not the way winter in Ohio is supposed to be. Do not allow yourself to be lulled into thinking that an Ohio winter is nothing to worry about. As soon as we develop that attitude, we could easily get slammed again.

In Ohio, not being prepared for winter can be fatal.

Forty-two years ago, we were on the brink of one of the most devastating winter storms this region would ever experience. Those of us who lived through the Blizzard of 1978 will never forget it.

Freezing rain changed to a heavy snow. The wind started to blow. It continued all night, blowing faster and harder throughout the long night. By morning, snow drifts were up to the windows. Doors could not be opened. In many places the snow had piled up to the rooftops. Most roads were impassible.

Fifty-one people died in Ohio because of that blizzard. The Ohio National Guard was activated to rescue stranded drivers and check on people who lived in rural areas. It was a dangerous and deadly week.

It could happen again. We need to be prepared.

Not only should we have plenty of food in our homes (including that can of butter beans that has been hiding in the pantry a few years), but we should also have food, extra clothing and blankets in our cars.

Debbie and I carry a little emergency go-bag in our car. It’s full of hats, gloves, earmuffs and a few small blankets.

Here’s a survival tip: Carry several feet of twine in your emergency go-bag. Above the rear door in every car is a handle to help get in or out the car. If you get stuck in your car, tie the twine from one side of the car to the other. Hang a small blanket over the twine. Cuddle in the back-seat (if you’re not alone) or hunker down by yourself in your winter coat and blanket. Slightly crack the window on the down-wind side of the car to allow for a little ventilation.

Carefully light a candle and secure it in a way that it won’t fall over and catch something on fire. The hanging blanket will reduce the area in the backseat and the heat from the candle will provide some warmth to that small space.

Sitting in the back seat, hunkered down under an extra blanket, wearing a hat, coat and extra clothes, you should be able to survive a few cold nights.

Also, a simple can or two of Campbell’s soup could help you survive a few days in your car. You can also use the empty soup can to collect and melted snow over the candle flame. If you want to get fancy, stick a few packets of instant coffee in your emergency go-bag.

Stay calm and wait. Don’t venture out into a blizzard. Be patient. Someone from emergency services will find you. Be calm and wait. Be smart. Be patient. You will get cold, but you can survive.

Some people like to sleep in the cold. I do. Debbie does not.

Years ago, we bought an electric blanket for our queen-sized bed. It had dual controls. I left my side completely turned off so it would get a little chilly. Debbie cranked her side up.

I would sometimes stick my feet over onto her side, but my feet would get so hot I’d quickly pull them back. I once told her if I put a Butterball turkey on her side of the bed, it would be done by morning. That’s how hot it felt.

Now, we sleep comfortably in separate bedrooms. It’s not just because of our temperature preferences; there’s also that snoring thing. The heat in my bedroom is turned completely off. Many nights I will also sleep with the window open. It gets cold, but I snuggle under the blankets and comforter and sleep like a baby.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are cold and are getting colder, there are some important things you should know and some important things you should do. First and foremost, prevent further heat loss. There is an old saying, “If your hands and feet are cold, put on a hat.”

About one-third of the blood flowing from your heart goes to your head. Your head is the greatest source of heat loss in your entire body. Keeping your head warm can keep your entire body warm. Have earmuffs and a warm knit hat available when you’re caught in the cold.

Don’t trust tennis shoes. Wear wool socks and warm boots. Gloves are great, but mittens are better.

Prepare an emergency go-bag. Stick it in your car. Don’t leave survival to chance and don’t expect our winter weather to remain as warm as it has been.

Be prepared. Stay prepared.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist