Mother Nature called: Old Man Winter is on his way

  • Published
  • By Landy C. Schwiesow
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
Mother Nature sent a warning shot over the Midwest's bow recently with snow in October. It may have been her way of giving us a sneak peek at what's to come this winter. 

Since winters in the Midwest can be harsh with a chilling cold, snow and ice, the recent snowfall could be viewed as a reminder to prepare for winter now. 

There are three areas to consider when winterizing: homes, cars and people. The first two ultimately refer to the latter one. 

Winterizing a house or apartment can help keep you and your family comfortable, safe and warm. 

"Nebraska winters vary from year to year but having a plan and preparing for adverse weather can make the difference in any situation," said Charles Ketchum, maintenance manager for America First Communities, a housing contractor. His office manages and maintains Offutt's military family housing. 

Mr. Ketchum pointed out how important planning is when troops deploy and separated families go away for extended periods of time during the holidays. "Be sure to communicate with your neighbors and our office if you are planning to be out of town," he said. 

Rising View residents can call Mr. Ketchum's office to have their furnaces checked for leaks and if needing serviced. 

People who don't live in military family housing have a variety of civilian companies to choose from who can perform a seasonal check on most heating, ventilation and cooling systems. 

"Having an HVAC system checked is a good way to stay safe, warm and gives people peace of mind," said Tech. Sgt Larry Ebell, ground safety technician with the 55th Wing Safety Office. 

To reduce winter heating costs, people can upgrade insulation to a higher level, as well as caulk and cover windows with special plastic. 

"We suggest using the window treatments you can get at any local hardware store," he said. "This will help with heat loss at your windows and keep the chill out of the air in your home." 

Additionally, Mr. Ketchum suggests that people never turn off their heater during winter and keeping thermostats set between 68 and 72 degrees to further conserve energy and keep costs down. 

It's also common practice for homeowners to winterize a home by having their chimneys swept, outdoor faucets capped, underground sprinkler systems serviced as well as humidifiers and snow blowers maintained prior to use. 

In addition to their home, winterizing cars is a must as well. 

Keeping a blanket, emergency road kit, a shovel, some sand, candles, matches, a global positioning system and a cell phone in your vehicle goes a long way in keeping you and your family safe, Sergeant Ebell said. 

As with performing safety checks on a home, drivers should have their car checked as well to make sure fluids, tires, belts, hoses and batteries are in top shape. 

"You should also know where your spare (tire) is and how the jack works," said Charles Rossiter, auto hobby shop manager. 

Many locations provide vehicle safety checks at a cost but, for the do-it-yourself-types, Offutt's 55th Force Support Squadron operates an auto hobby shop. Although a car examination service is offered there for $10, people can also use the shop to perform their own inspections, Mr. Rossiter said. 

Most identification card holders can use the shop, he added. The auto hobby shop is open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. 

With homes and cars taken care of, people should then take a look in the mirror since winters can be harsh on the human body as well. 

The most prevalent tip would be to wear layers of clothing that can be easily removed to adjust for comfort, said Tina Luderman, child development center director. This is especially important for children. 

"As parents our goal is to develop safe and healthy habits for our children," said Ms. Luderman. "Bundling up is one thing we can do during the winter months to keep our bodies warm so they can fight colds and flu. The body will expend large amounts of energy to keep itself at the homeostasis point. When the body is concentrating on keeping warm, it decreases the ability to counter the onset of the cold or flu." 

However, Ms. Luderman does stress not to overdress. 

"By dressing children in layers you can keep them warm when outside in the cold and remove items when the temperature changes to avoid perspiration, which the body does to cool off," she said. "With overdressing, the body tries to maintain a constant temperature. When you sweat, then come in contact with cold air, it cools the body too rapidly." 

Typically, cold weather clothing is needed for Midwest winters to include winter coats, sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, thermal underwear, boots, gloves, scarves and caps. It also helps to wear thick wool socks or socks that can wick moisture away from feet to keep them as warm and dry as possible. Children should also use mittens instead of gloves. Despite loss of some dexterity, it keeps fingers warmer due to less separation. 

Using lotion to moisturize skin is also beneficial as it prevents skin from drying out after exposure to dry winter air and home heating systems.