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Our Opinion: Prepare now for a long winter

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Well, that escalated quickly.

A mere two weeks after summer-like temperatures in the 80s, the Brainerd lakes area is now awash in snow and cold. And not just in a dusting of snow, but about 5-7 inches of it total between Tuesday and Thursday. And there is a chance some of the snow will be staying and added to, based on the extended forecast.

So yeah, goodbye fall and hello winter.

Yes, 2020 has been a bad year between COVID, social unrest, rioting, wildfires, hurricanes and a polarizing presidential election. That we now have snow in mid-October just feels like a kick in our collective shins.

Related: Our Opinion: COVID-19 came ‘Back to School’ too
But if the snow isn’t going to go away, it’s upon us to grin and bear it, and do our part to prepare ourselves for what might be one of the longer winters in memory. And Tuesday was a prime example of how short our memories can be, based on the number of crashes and vehicles in ditches during the snowfall.

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation recommends the following for winter driving:

  • Don’t drive distracted.

  • Stay alert for snowplows, which turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.

  • Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow. Don’t drive into a snow cloud.

  • Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.

  • Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.

  • Turn off the cruise control.

  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.

But it’s not only driving that we should be paying attention to. Also on that list is making sure our homes are properly winterized, including the furnace in working order; getting our winter clothing out of storage and ready for use; putting a winter survival kit in our vehicles; and getting our snow removal equipment ready to go.
To that end, the National Safety Council recommends the following tips to shovel safely:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking

  • Take it slow and stretch out before you begin

  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it's lighter

  • Push the snow rather than lifting it

  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel

  • Lift with your legs, not your back

  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion

  • Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you're experiencing any of them; every minute counts

Yes, it does feel too early to be discussing winter prep but that’s just the way this year has gone. This is just one more surreal event we will have to adjust to. Hopefully the last, but we’re not counting on that.

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