It's not quite the polar vortex that we suffered through last winter - at least not yet - but bone-chilling cold is in the forecast for the next few days.
The arctic-like conditions can do a number on vehicles and humans as car batteries drain and flesh can freeze in just a matter of minutes. So to keep you on the road and warm as the coldest air of the season moves in, here are a few tips for getting around:
Monday was an extremely busy day for AAA Minnesota-Iowa and AAA Minneapolis. Both agencies logged more than double their normal amount of calls for service by mid-afternoon. Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to be just as busy. The most common calls were for jump starts and tows.
But with so many calls coming in, drivers need to be prepared to wait as long as an hour for service during the busiest times, said Jamie Korf, a spokeswoman for AAA Minneapolis.
"We are responding to calls for those who do not have the means of shelter vs. those who are in safe, unexposed quarters" Korf said. But still the wait could be a while.
If the unfortunate happens, motorists should have an emergency kit on board. Be sure to have a flashlight, jumper cables, flares, basic tools, water and non-perishable food items. A fully-charged cell phone would be a good idea, too
In addition, Korf offered the following suggestions:
- Warm up your vehicle for 5-10 minutes before heading out. This allows oil and engine to warm up, as well as the heat/defrosting systems.
- If your locks are frozen in the morning: warm the key. Don't pour warm water on the car, as it may re-freeze.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up
Other advice I've collected over the years from AAA and local body shops include:
- Use the tires recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer for the best snow traction and make sure the tires are inflated to the proper levels.
- Get the battery tested and make sure the charging system is working. Mechanics also recommend getting your battery tested if it is more than three years old.
- Use coolant that provides anti-freeze protection down to the lowest temperature you are likely to encounter. Here in Minnesota that's very low.
- Visibility is key in winter. Replace broken windows and worn windshield wipers
BY PUBLIC TRANSIT
Wind chill can bring on frostbite in few as 10 minutes according to the National Weather Service, so here are tips for those waiting outside for buses and trains:
- Limit your wait time. Use NexTrip to find departure times and limit the time standing at a train or bus stop. NexTrip is offers schedules for Metro Transit, Plymouth Metrolink, Maple Grove Transit, Minnesota Valley Transit and Southwest Transit routes.
- Take advantage of heaters and shelters that are available at busy park-and-ride lots, rail platforms and transit centers.
- Dress in layers to comfortably withstand low temperatures
- Wear snow boots or foot ware that can grip the surface. Rail platforms and floors on trains and buses can become slippery from snow and water
- Wear reflective clothing to help bus drivers spot you, especially in the early mornings before sunrise and evenings after sun set
- If a bus stop has not been cleared of snow, stand in the safest place possible. Buses will not stop at places deemed unsafe.
- Wait for your bus on the sidewalk away from the curb and make sure it stops before approaching it
- Never cross in front of a bus unless it is stopped at a traffic light. Don't run after or along side of a bus or train. Play it safe and wait for the next one.
- Consider traveling early in the morning or later in the evening when buses and trains are less crowded.
Our friends at Bike Walk Twin Cities have these suggestions for those who move about on two wheels
- Ride on bare pavement or non-compacted snow when possible. Bicyclists are allowed to use the general traffic lanes, which may be necessary if bike lanes have not been cleared.
- Take curves and turns slower than normal and allow longer distances for stopping and braking.
- Follow traffic laws and ride defensively as motorists could make a mistake
- Stay visible by wearing headlights, taillights and wearing reflective clothing
- Dress in layers. You should feel chilly when you start. If you are warm then, you will likely be boiling as you get into your ride. Be ready to shed layers when necessary.
- But be sure to cover all extremities, including hands, neck and feet. Goggles are recommended to protect from grime and dirt that might fly into your eyes.
- Make sure your brakes are in good working order and the chain is greased. A wet lube is ideal for snowy conditions.