Don't let winter catch you off guard

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Public safety: Prepare in advance for wintry conditions

By Tris DeRoma

If the cold temps and snow this weekend hasn’t quite woken you up yet,  the National Weather Service would just like to remind you, winter is here.

Last week, NWS meteorologist Kerry Jones gave the low-down on what the residents of Los Alamos can expect this winter.

“Winter happens,” he said and that means people should get ready. Too many times, he said a certain number of people are caught unprepared when winter comes and demonstrate it through their driving habits and other ways — endangering their lives as well as those around them.

“The first storm or two of the season, regardless of strength, always seem to catch people off guard,” Jones said.

He also said that this winter may have a little more snow than usual, just because it will be the third winter in Los Alamos that won’t have a La Niña type weather pattern.

“That is significant,” he said. “It’s what we’ve been in for the last two years.” Though it’s no guarantee that we will get more snow than usual, he said a La Niña pattern always favors a drier pattern of precipitation and according to his charts, he doesn’t see that happening this year.

“Now does that mean we’re going to have a bounty of snow with sleigh bells and everything? No, it just means we probably aren’t going to see the more detrimental impacts of La Niña,” Jones said.

That could mean around two inches to a foot-and-a-half of snow this winter, and a fairly moist spring, according to Jones. However, he cautioned, things could go either way at this point in the game.

“I’m sure you’re going to get a lot of comments about that saying, ‘they don’t know anything,’ but equal chances are the outlook right now; equal chances of above, near or below the norm,” he said. “The odds right now don’t favor one scenario over the other. They all have an equal opportunity of playing out.”

Either way, Los Alamos County Emergency Services Director Phil Taylor says no matter how much or how little snow we get this season, be prepared for winter.

“You live up here on this volcano, you’re relatively isolated, you have to take some responsibility to make sure you and your family is prepared,” Taylor said.

Taylor also agreed with Jones regarding a certain number of people always seem to be caught off guard by the first storms of the season. He predicted that when the first storm hits, there will probably be a snow-related accident occurring in either the morning or afternoon rush hour on either of the two routes that lead in and out of town.

“I predict that someone will be driving too fast for the icy and snowy conditions and that’s going to either exacerbate or cause the traffic accident,” he said.

Taylor added that people should also be thinking of putting together an emergency kit for their car just in case they get stranded.

“Get your car ready, stock it up, have a blanket a flashlight, a clue as to what’s going on out there,” he said.