Stay safe on peninsula's wintry roads

Posted: Sunday, December 06, 2009

As this week's snowfall shows, winter driving can be an especially hazardous experience.

Drifting snow, wet and heavy as it comes down, turns to sheets of ice in the right temperature conditions. A short run to, say, Cooper Landing, turns into an ordeal. And for those of us who make regular trips to Anchorage or Homer, the highway suddenly gets a whole lot longer and lonelier.

So, if you haven't already this season, take some precautions.

Make sure your vehicle is in top shape - fluids topped off, tires in good shape, windshield wipers really wipe (not just smear), all the lights work.

Pack the essentials for winter travel:

* A flashlight (check the batteries)

* A brush or broom for snow removal

* Extra fuses for vehicle systems

* Extra washer fluid

* A rag for cleaning headlights or the windshield if you run out of washer fluid

* Chains for your tires

* Gloves

* A small snow shovel

* A small bag of sand or salt

* A blanket and extra heavy clothing, including snow boots

* Jumper cables

* Non-perishable snacks

It's also best to know road conditions before you start a long drive. Dialing 511 gets you the state's road conditions report. You can also go to this Web site: for the same information, as well as the most current weather reports.

Another good idea is to have someone you can check in with by phone. Cellular phone service is usually pretty good except for a short distance around Turnagain Pass. If the worst happens, at least the person you were checking in with will know approximately where you are on the highway and be able to get help to you sooner.

And, not to be alarmist, but it can get that harrowing.

All we're suggesting is to be aware and take precautions. This is Alaska, after all. The weather here isn't just an occasional nuisance. Under the wrong conditions, it can be unforgiving in the extreme.

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