Bracing for blizzards

DASHING+THROUGH+THE+SNOW%E2%80%94With+winter+in+the+air%2C+NMUPD+advises+students+to+begin+common-sense+preparations+for+the+snowy+U.P.+conditions+such+as+getting+vehicles+equipped+with+snow+tires+and+purchasing+shovels+and+scrapers+to+battle+the+slush+and+ice.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Marketing

Elliot Kennedy

DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW—With winter in the air, NMUPD advises students to begin common-sense preparations for the snowy U.P. conditions such as getting vehicles equipped with snow tires and purchasing shovels and scrapers to battle the slush and ice. Photo courtesy of NMU Marketing

Akasha Khalsa

This winter may be just as difficult and dangerous as last year’s snowy season, and NMU Police Department (NMUPD) reminds students to be safe with their vehicles and prepare for the ice and snow to inundate us soon.

“We may have another dandy winter,” NMUPD Chief Michael Bath said. “They’re predicting another interesting one.”

Anyone traveling on the roads in the U.P. are recommended to have a snow shovel in their car with them. Small shovels can be purchased at stores such as Meijer, Target and Walmart. This shovel could be a part of a winter safety kit which can be kept in the car and may include jumper cables and extra warm clothes. It is not out of the ordinary for students to become stranded on the roads in the U.P. or in the parking lots on campus, Sgt. Jon Kovar said. Cars often become plowed in, so it is important for students to make regular checks on their vehicle in the lots.

It is also highly advisable to make sure the vehicle’s tires have an adequate grip surface with a safe tread depth, Kovar said.

“With a lot of the issues that you have with vehicles, it’s that the tires aren’t good. As you know, with last year, with the amount of snow we had, trying to keep the roads and parking lots down low enough, it was a challenge,” Bath said.

Last winter, many cars became stuck in parking lots on campus, and NMUPD began having student employees drive the parking lots to help dig cars out of the high snow. This was the first winter in some time where this service was necessary nearly every day. Depending on the conditions this coming winter, NMUPD may provide the same service as precipitation increases. However, students may wish to take the initiative and purchase their own shovel so that they need not rely on such services.

Bath added that students should always remember to dress appropriately for the winter cold and to have a spare pair of boots and warm, heavy clothes in their vehicle in the event of becoming stuck while traveling.

“You never know when that could happen, especially when you’re traveling to and from the university and right around break time,” Bath said.

Students residing in on-campus housing are advised by NMUPD to move their vehicles for the plowing schedule. Emails will go out reminding students not to leave cars in the resident lots and alerting them as to when they must relocate their vehicles. Alternative lots will be used when other resident lots are being plowed. Each ticket for failing to move your vehicle for the plowing schedule results in a $25 fine. These will add up over the winter if cars are consistently not moved.

“If you leave cars in the lots, they have to plow around them,” Bath said. “And that takes more time and effort that we could be cleaning other areas.”

NMUPD will now require cars to be moved Friday evening before plowing begins, rather than Saturday morning.

Bath also recommends never to let a car sit accumulating layers of snow for weeks on end. Car batteries may die when left sitting in the cold for too long without being started. Not only will an immobile car result in hefty fines and towing bills, students may be prevented or postponed from going home at spring break. Bath said he saw several situations last year in which students did not move their vehicles for the duration of the winter and were unable to start the cars at the beginning of break.

“Last year we had some cars that were so buried with snow, we had to go around with broomsticks to see if there were cones in the snowbanks, and we actually put cones on them so that the plows wouldn’t hit them. There were mounds with cars in them,” Bath said. “You want to maintain the car, you don’t want it to be left in a frozen brick.”

NMUPD cannot jump-start cars but will assist students in finding a towing company to get their car. However, students must foot the bill.

Students are advised to be careful while driving in high snow, especially snow banks. Cars should be kept clean and windows should be scraped as clear as possible to allow for the best visibility on the front, back and sides of the car, Kovar said. Cars can be pulled over for not being sufficiently cleaned off, as low visibility through the windows is a safety hazard.

“The biggest thing I would say is expect it to take longer to get where you need to go. Take your time, you’re going to have to watch out for other vehicles,” Kovar said.

Students, especially those who commute to campus, are encouraged to slow down while driving when the snow hits. Allow for extra time driving in the winter, taking into account plowing on the roads, and when snow is expected to hit each day.

“It’s one thing when the roads are dry. Everyone has to re-learn how to drive in the winter-time,” Bath said.

Dress for the cold weather, even if living on campus, you don’t have to be outside for long periods. Even short periods outside can result in harm when wind chills or temperatures reach below a certain point. Students can protect themselves from the danger of frostbite by dressing warmly. Hedgecock provides free, used warm clothing, including coats and hats, to students unable to acquire warm winter gear. 

Temperatures and weather in Michigan are notoriously changing, and those living in the area should be prepared for the eventualities. Some days may promise no snow and result in a blizzard.