The calendar may say it's autumn, but Alaskans know winter is here to stay -- for the next several months.
That blanket of snow outside tells us the seasons have changed -- and that changes everything.
The view out our window is transformed into a beautiful snowscape. Our diets get a makeover; forget the salad, it's time for a nice hot bowl of our favorite comfort food. Our jogging shoes are replaced by skis and snowshoes. Boats are put up; snowmachines are pulled out.
Even the tires on our cars change.
As should our driving habits.
Unfortunately, too frequently, those are the last things to be revamped. Even though we know the season's first snowfall is as certain as death, taxes and lost computer data, some of us continue to drive as if it were summer. Maybe, it's a denial technique; one that goes something like this: "If I pretend the roads aren't icy and slick, they won't be." Sorry, but you can't forestall winter by pretending it hasn't arrived.
In fact, such an attitude is one of the hazards of the season.
You've heard the safety tips at least as many times as the number of winters you've spent in Alaska. Nevertheless, they bear repeating. If one more person becomes educated each season, it's potentially one less accident.
With that in mind, some seasonal reminders:
Common sense is the best defense against accidents in winter. What that means is slow down and increase the distance between your car and other traffic.
Studded tires all the way around are the safest.
Moose can appear out of nowhere. Again, by decreasing your speed and increasing the distance between you and other cars, you reduce the chances of a dangerous collision.
A winter survival kit can keep a situation from turning into a catastrophe. It should contain a flashlight, blankets, booster cables, a warning device (flares or reflective triangle), a small bag of abrasive material (sand or cat litter), a cloth towel or roll of paper towels, an ice scraper, a small shovel, water, some emergency food and a book of matches.
Good windshield wiper blades are a must for good winter visibility when driving.
No matter how short a trip you're making, dress for the weather. If you have car trouble or are involved in an accident, you'll be glad you took the time to don your boots, coat, hat and mittens.
Slick roads are just one of the seasonal hazards facing Alaskans.
Danger from fire and carbon monoxide poisoning are two others. As with other winter hazards, prevention and precaution can go a long way.
If the snow slows down, this weekend is the ideal time to perform what should be routine fall chores -- including cleaning your wood-stove chimney and checking to make sure your oil-fired and natural gas furnaces and boilers are working properly.
Also, don't forget when you turn your clocks back next weekend to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Such safety devices do no good if they aren't working properly.
These tips and many others are included in a special section in today's Peninsula Clarion. "Let It Snow" is filled with tips on weathering winter safely and in comfort as well as a celebration of the season.
Winter is a breathtaking time of year. A time when things should move at a slower pace. A time for recharging after the never-ending days of summer. A time to listen to the snow fall and to bask in the dance of the northern lights.
Let's not spoil it by causing accidents that could have been avoided with just a little care and foresight.
In the meantime, let it snow.
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