That’s a very dramatic title. Sorry. Here in the UK we now seem to love dramatic titles and headlines. According to the press we are currently in the grip of ‘the beast from the East’ (a weather system blowing from the East) and ‘Storm Emma’. A few years ago we would have called it ‘a spell of winter weather’ but I suppose that wouldn’t sell as many newspapers or get as much internet traffic as ‘the beast from the East’ ravaging us. To put it in perspective, where I live, we’ve had approx 2 inches of snow with drifts of approx 4 feet in places, blown around by a 40mph breeze. It’s lasted 3 days so far and caused widespread travel disruption closing roads and forcing train and bus operators to cancel services. We don’t cope well with the winter weather; I get a bit embarrassed when I think about how some countries cope with months of ‘proper’ snow and drifts without a single sensational headline.
Sadly however there have been a few deaths caused by the winter weather so here is my guide to coping and maybe even thriving.
- Keep warm. Very obvious one to start with. If you have to go out, spend a few minutes preparing what to wear. To stay warm in this weather you need to keep dry, nothing cools you down like being wet (just think how lovely it is to jump into the pool on a scorching holiday in the sun and how effectively it cools you). A suitable layer next to skin can help to move any sweat caused by exertion away from your skin so it stays dry. Nothing feels more uncomfortable than a cold, damp tee-shirt against your skin. A few layers then to keep hold of layers of warm air near your body and stop your heat from convecting away into the winter’s day. On the outside, a good waterproof layer. If possible, a modern, breathable waterproof is best, lets the aforementioned sweat get out while still keeping the rain or snow out. Top the outfit off with a hat. It used to be thought that 40-45% of body heat is lost from the head. Modern sport science experiments have disproved this but you still lose approx 7% so a hat will make a difference.
- Check the news reports for advice on what the roads you’re planning to use are like. If the police are saying not to risk them then it’s probably best not to. They’re not being spoilsports but are trying to prevent you from being yet another car they have to get towed from a ditch or snowdrift.
- If you do have to drive anywhere, prepare. Assume you will be delayed, possibly for a few hours. Take spare warm clothes, even in your car it can get very cold out there if you’re not moving. Make sure your mobile (cell) phone is charged or that you have a charger for it in the car. Take a snack or a drink.
- If you’re on regular medication, consider taking it with you then in the worst case if you are delayed by several hours you won’t miss a scheduled dose.
- You don’t need to panic buy. In the UK bad weather only normally disrupts things for a couple of days at most. If snow storms are predicted (and we do normally get a couple of days notice) then just make sure you’ve enough of the basics to last (don’t forget the wine and chocolate!).
- Make sure your neighbours are ok, especially the elderly. It may not be as easy for them to get to the shops in foul weather.
The local police have found the snow helpful. One burglar was caught when the officers followed his footprints from the crime scene to where he was hiding. A cannabis ‘grow house’ was found when it was noticed that it was the only house with no snow on its roof at the height of the storm. The heat required to grow the plants in the loft had melted it as it landed.
So there you have it. As always, though, at times of adversity, human goodness tends to shine through. There are lots of stories of people volunteering to help stranded people providing food warmth and shelter. Farmers and 4 wheel drive owners have been helping to tow stuck cars.
Keep warm and safe.