Highland | Clear, 37o

News Line Article March, 2008

We have experienced an interesting winter concerning the amount of snowfall we have received.  Some tell me this is actually a typical winter and since we have been in a drought for past ten (10) years we have simply forgotten the conditions of a normal winter.  Others tell me that this past few months is certainly not an example of a normal winter.  Whichever viewpoint or analysis is correct, this is an excellent time to suggest some precautionary measures and offer some “food for thought” that will benefit each of us.

 The evening of Wednesday, February 13th is certainly a night many of us will not soon forget.  The blowing snow and “white out” conditions caused the closure of many roads.  Several vehicles became “drifted in” by blowing snow and could not move.  Several vehicles actually ran out of gas and were left in the travel portions of several roads.  Once many vehicles became stuck the drivers/occupants were removed from the vehicle and taken to their home or other shelter.  Many persons were preparing to spend the night in their vehicle.  I know I had family members that spent between 5 and 8 hours getting home from the Salt Lake Valley.  I know this time frame was very typical of many of our residents.  This situation gives an excellent opportunity to consider certain aspects of your vehicle and the opportunity to list some items you may want to include in your vehicle.  This list is by no means all inclusive, but I would consider:

  •         Always keeping my gas/fuel tank at least ½ full;
  •         Being fully aware of the condition and tread type of my vehicle’s tires;
  •         Having a realistic knowledge of my vehicle’s capability in snowy conditions;
  •         Keeping one or more well insulating blanket(s) in the vehicle;
  •         Keeping drinking water in the vehicle (I know it may freeze but your heater can be used to thaw it out.  I would keep several smaller bottles of water as opposed to one large container).
  •         Food snacks and food items that do not have to be cooked or heated to consume (jerky, granola bars, power bars, nuts, etc.);
  •         Insulated gloves and a warm hat that can cover your ears;
  •         A small collapsible shovel (in this situation one with a square nosed head with an aluminum collapsible handle is excellent.  These are frequently carried by snow mobilers and can be purchased at a variety of places.  They are designed specifically to clear and move snow which is what you may need to do to regain traction for your vehicle.);
  •         Some interesting reading material (you may be stranded for a period of time during daylight hours and boredom frequently makes us unpleasantly impatient);
  •         Most of us carry a cell phone and have a radio in our vehicle.  The cell phone should be used to call for help, notify loved ones or emergency services personnel of your status, and for necessary communications.  The radio is a means of receiving news and weather updates and information.

This list certainly could go on and on.  Each of us has specific items we would like to have in our vehicle under certain conditions.  The important message is to realize that these situations are a possibility and we should prepare accordingly.  When my family was younger we routinely made winter trips between Southern Nevada and Wyoming.  My wife and I knew that in the Mountain West it is not uncommon for the snow plows to not operate between 9;00pm and 5:00am the following morning (in our urban area the times can be much different).  But we always recognized that the possibility existed that we may “slide off the road”, become stuck and have to wait until the following morning for help to arrive, especially in some remote areas we traversed.  Accordingly, we carried specific items in our vehicle for ourselves (both adult and children) during these winter trips.  Our circumstances today are actually no different.  A small amount of preparation certainly goes a long way when we find ourselves in these circumstances.

 And please remember that a large amount of patience is requested and needed on your part.  Mostly, you are in a warm vehicle, with the heater going, out of the weather.  Our emergency response personnel, city workers (many working extra hours), volunteers, many Good Sams, and others are literally out in the weather trying to make the situation better for you and all of us.  None of us wished for the specific challenge we are dealing with at the moment, but the best solution of for all of us involved is to be patient, understanding, helpful and remember that truly it is simply a matter of time until things return to “normal”.  To my knowledge, even though approximately 30 vehicles were towed from our section of State Road 92 (Highland Highway going to I-15) and from Highland Boulevard the following morning, no one froze to death nor was anyone severely injured in a traffic collision in our jurisdiction.   All of the children who were in school buses that were stuck and all of the children that spent the night at Ridgeline Elementary (and the teachers and parents) all eventually got home and were physically safe during the ordeal.   Important keys in these situations are preparation, patience, prioritization and understanding.   Thanks to all of you who demonstrated these traits on Wednesday night and Thursday, February 13 and 14, 2008.

Kip Botkin, Chief of Police