Public Safety

Winter weather tips for the road, the outdoors and your pets

An electronic sign above I-380 tells motorists to use caution as there are snow plows in use on the road as snow falls in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
An electronic sign above I-380 tells motorists to use caution as there are snow plows in use on the road as snow falls in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Follow these tips — for people and pets — to stay safe on the road and outside during the winter months.

Winter driving tips

• Don’t follow plow trucks too closely.

• Reduce speeds on snow and ice.

• Use caution and don’t brake during turns.

• Avoid sudden movements.

• Accelerate and brake carefully and slowly.

• Leave more room between you and other vehicles.

• Increase your braking distance.

Road and traffic conditions

Here are a few ways to stay on top of state and local traffic information during the winter months:

Iowa Department of Transportation’s 511ia.org offers traffic and road condition updates, as well as the ability to see where DOT plows are operating — along with images from the windshields of about 400 DOT trucks.

Track a Plow also offers users the ability to locate plows. Find it at trackaplow.iowadot.gov.

• Cedar Rapids residents can sign up to receive text alert sfor snow emergencies at cityofcr.com/subscribe.

• In Iowa City, snow emergency updates can be received via email or text alert by signing up at icgov.org/e-subscriptions.

Stay safe from the cold

• Stay indoors during the storm.

• Walk carefully on snowy, icy walkways.

• Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.

• Stay dry. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits the cold rapidly.

• Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities. If any of these occur, get medical help immediately.

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• Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If any of these symptoms appear, get to a warm location, remove wet clothing, and warm the center of the body first. Provide warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the person is conscious and get medical help as soon as possible.

• If you see someone who appears to be struggling in the cold, stop to check on them and call 911 if they need help.

Emergency shelters

People needing housing during the cold spell should contact either of these locations:

• Linn County: Waypoint Services at 319-366-7999.

• Johnson County: Shelter House at 319-351-0326.

Keep pets safe

• If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed.

• Don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.

• Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.

• Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.

• Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure it has plenty of water to drink will help keep your pet well-hydrated and its skin less dry.

• Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts.

• Towel dry your pet as soon as it comes inside, paying special attention to its feet and between toes. Remove any snow balls from between foot pads.

• Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat provides more warmth.

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• Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin.

• Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

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Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.