Temperatures and wind chills increase travel risks

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- Chad Kaiser, Stutsman County sheriff, has something to add to the old saying, “What can go wrong, will go wrong.”

“And cold weather adds to any problem,” he said.

The National Weather Service is forecasting air temperatures of 30 degrees below zero or colder for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Winds could bring the the wind chill to colder than 50 degrees below zero and have prompted a wind chill warning from 9 p.m. Monday through noon Thursday, according to Jeanine Vining, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

Those low temperatures can cause problems with vehicles, according to Travis Pfau, a service technician at Lloyd’s Toyota in Jamestown.

“Make sure the vehicle is in good shape,” he said. “The colder it is, the harder it is on everything.”

Pfau said the battery is probably the weakest link in a car in cold weather.

“If a battery is weak, it might start the car to about zero,” he said.

Using a block heater to warm the engine before starting and letting the engine idle for a minute or two are also good practices in cold weather.

“That gets the oil circulating and engine loosened up,” Pfau said.

Belts, battery and even tires are all under strain in cold weather and a failure can leave people stranded, according to Kim Franklin, assistant emergency manager for Stutsman County.

“We’ve had more motorists stranded in past because of snow rather than cold,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”

Travelers should carry a winter survival kit, including blankets, a charged cell phone and extra food.

“Drive safely and have the car full of gas,” Franklin said. “The cold will compound any other problem you have.”

Kaiser said the department’s deputies are prepared for working in cold weather.

“The deputies have extra gear for the cold, but things take longer,” Kaiser said. “The public needs to make sure they are dressed for it. If they have a problem, get on the cell phone and call right away. If the car quits, it doesn’t take long to get cold.”

Franklin said the best way to stay safe in the cold is to stay home.

“If you don’t have to go, don’t,” she said.