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Winter preparedness and winter weather
Winter preparedness
By Marilou Carrera

Christmas and New Years are just around the corner. Oregonians must begin thinking about their holiday plans as well as preparing for the winter season. Winter can be more dangerous than other times of the year because external weather conditions are not as safe and can change quickly. Taking simple steps now to prepare at home and work and with your vehicle can save a lot of time and prevent worry later.

Home and vehicle preparedness

It is a good idea to stock emergency supplies at home, in case of a snowstorm or power outage. Generally, three days of supplies is good if evacuation is the plan, and two weeks’ worth if evacuation is not appropriate. The Oregon Health Authority’s Build A Kit webpage provides a detailed checklist of items to have on hand for emergencies 

The Oregon Winter Driving Guide (pdf) has a complete checklist of items recommended for a vehicle emergency kit.

Chains and tires

Winter travel means all Oregonians are responsible for knowing and applying the laws surrounding chain and tire traction devices. These laws apply to all of the state highways.  

Chains or traction tires are mandatory when signs have been posted that they must be used. Chains and tires are available from tire dealers, auto parts stores and other automotive retail outlets. If mandatory use signs are posted along the highway, drivers should pull their vehicles out of the lane and into designated chain-up areas.

Always be aware of weather conditions. Call Oregon’s Highway Advisory Telephone for current road conditions; call 511 if in Oregon, or 503-588-2941 if calling from outside the state. Or check for weather conditions and other information, including a summary of the chain and traction tire laws, and sample signage that may be posted along the highway.

Travelling do’s

Lieutenant Gregg Hastings, a 34-year member of the Oregon State Police (OSP), has had his fair share of winter-driving-gone-awry stories. Often the problems arise when drivers are not familiar with their traveling route, or find themselves rerouted because weather conditions interfere with GPS and visibility.

There are several precautions to make winter travel safe and enjoyable. The first step is to know the route, particularly if you don’t have GPS, even before getting on the road. Plan an alternate route as a backup. Know the weather conditions and check out weather reports. Be sure to have emergency supplies in the vehicle, especially nourishment and water. When on the road, practice thinking 15 seconds ahead, or even longer, and be alert if something develops ahead. This is important because slick roadways can increase distance and stopping times. If there is a travel ban, honor those guidelines. Driving against a travel ban means there is a greater likelihood of driving in unsafe conditions, and contributing to accidents and emergencies. Travel bans are infrequent in Oregon, but can become necessary. Tell friends and family your plans, including your route. Finally, if the drive is rerouted, stay with the vehicle unless it is unsafe to do so.

Lt. Hastings has several recommendations for winter travel, but the three most important ones include:

  • First, be prepared and respect the pending winter season and the travelling challenges that one can experience.
  • Second, make sure the driver and the vehicle are both ready for those challenges.
  • Finally, Lt. Hastings says to pay attention to forecasted weather conditions, “so you are not being part of the problem, but part of the solution so that you and others can safely get to where you want to go.”


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