Bogged down by too many winter tips? We have trimmed it down to the most essential five elements to help you master winter like a true Manitoban:
Starting the day by checking the forecast is a habit you can’t do without in winter. Environment Canada is your friend. You can also choose any other reliable weather sites or apps like The Weather Network. Note the temperature, wind chill and the general weather (sunny, rainy, cloudy, period of snow, clear, etc). This will help you decide what to wear and alert you to hazards you should watch out for. Refer to the wind chill hazards table to give you an idea of the various degrees of windchill and the effect on your body.
Be familiar with the terms used in severe weather alerts. For example, a Blowing Snow Advisory means that blowing snow caused by winds of at least 30 km/hr is expected to reduce visibility to 800 metres or less for at least three hours. An Extreme Cold Warning means that the temperature or wind chill is expected to reach minus °40 for at least two hours. Learn about other weather hazards at Environment Canada.
Temperatures can fluctuate even in winter so layering is the key. To accommodate changes (even just the shift from outdoors to heated indoors), it is best to wear two to three layers so you’ll have the option of taking off a layer to stay comfortable when it gets warmer.
Start by investing in a good winter coat and sturdy boots. A toque and gloves are winter musts. If you will be staying outside for an extended period, consider wearing thermal underwear. You may also need some ski pants, a balaclava (face mask) and ear muffs. Hand warmers can also help you. These are small packets that you can buy at groceries and thrift stores that can keep your hands warm for hours.
Driving slowly and having the proper tools and accessories are the components of safe winter driving. Expecting the first snowfall is usually the signal that it’s time to start your day earlier and reduce your speed. Commuters should also have an early start since buses will go slower.
Winter driving requires a new set of accessories that will keep you safe and warm, and help your car work at an optimum level. Start by getting winter tires. Accessories like a block heater (an electric heating tool to warm the fluids in the engine), remote starter, seat warmer, snow brush and ice scraper, windshield washer fluid, and booster cables are lifesavers. Pack a winter driving kit to anticipate all kinds of emergencies.
- Gas up more often in winter. Keep it at least half-full, never below a quarter of your tank. Low fuel can get you stranded in the cold.
- Getting ice off of your windshield can be hard in the mornings. Use a de-icing solution. You can use two parts rubbing alcohol with one part water (or three parts vinegar and one part water). Spray on your windshield and windows. Wipe. You’ll notice that this mixture dissolves ice quickly.
- Never pour hot water on your frozen car. This can crack your windshield.
- Should you leave your wipers up when you park your car at night? Experts say no. If they come down, due to the wind, for example, they can break the windshield since glass is more fragile when frozen. Instead, slip a pair of socks to prevent them from sticking to the windshield or use a de-icer to unstick them.
- If your car doors are always frozen, prevent this by using cooking spray on the rubber seal around your doors. Wipe the excess off with a paper towel. You can also ask your mechanic to put a silicone treatment on your door seals.
Managing your physical and mental health
Instead of approaching winter as an agony to be endured, newcomers should welcome it with excitement. You’re never cold when you’re active! This is the best time to experience outdoor sports such as skating, snowboarding and skiing. Tobogganing with your kids is a fun and inexpensive way to spend some quality time with them. Even just walking around the neighbourhood and admiring the winterscape is enough to lift your mood.
Aside from welcoming winter, practical measures like proper nutrition, exercise and vitamin C (consult your doctor first before taking supplements) can help you. Also, get a flu shot before the onset of the cold and flu season which usually comes towards the end of fall. Moisturizing is not just about preventing wrinkles, it’s also about avoiding wind burn and cracking, itchy skin. So make sure to use lotion, petroleum jelly, or ointments especially if you need to go outdoors.
Home care and safety
Staying warm without your hydro bills going through the roof is your main goal during winter. Winterizing your home – insulating, weather-stripping, clearing eavestroughs, etc. – should be done during fall. During winter months, regulate your thermostat to conserve energy. Know the most optimal temperature that would be most comfortable for you and your family.
Did you know that winter is the worst time for fires in Canada? It’s the season when we do all our cooking and heating indoors. This is why it’s important to use only safe sources of heat within your home. If you intend to use your fireplace, read Fireplace safety from Fire Prevention Canada. Lastly, and most importantly, make sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly (replace the batteries if needed). Always have emergency numbers ready for any contingency.
Manitobans are lucky that the City clears up snow on sidewalks and back lanes (this is not the case for other provinces). However, with the amount of snow we get, you will still need to shovel areas near your home to keep it passable and safe. Make sure to wear the right clothing and footwear and get the right length of shovel to prevent back and muscle strain (practice using it before buying at the hardware store). Shoveling is hard work, so don’t over extend yourself.
Have a safe and fun winter!
Sources: The “stay warm” winter guide for Canadian newcomers (Parts 1-5), Margaret Jetelina, Canadian Immigrant; 5 winter hacks to keep your car from freezing, CBC News and Winter safety, Fire Prevention Canada. Accessed January 13, 2020.
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