CLINTON – With the great weather we have been receiving it’s hard to think about what is on the horizon. We will eventually be taking care of the “white stuff”; there is no way around it.

It is impossible to predict how much “white stuff” we will see and the person who is prepared will be back inside drinking a hot chocolate while the rest of us are outside.

Now is the time to get the equipment in top shape. Even the shovel needs a little attention to keep it working all season. Make sure the handle has no cracks or damage that would cause it to break.

Check the edge and file or grind it straight and get rid of sharp metal edges. Go through your snow blower by filling it with fresh gas, check or change belts/ chains to make sure they are not going to break when needed most.

The first storms of the year are the most deadly and everyone needs to take it easy until they get use to shoveling or snow blowing. Picking up a shovel and moving hundreds of pounds of snow, particularly after doing nothing physical for several months, can put a big strain on the heart. Pushing a heavy snow blower also can cause injury. And, there’s the cold factor. Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply.

This is true even in healthy people. Individuals over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful. National Safety Council recommends the following tips to shovel safely.

Do not shovel after eating or while smoking. Take it slow and stretch out before you begin. Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; its lighter.

Push the snow rather than lifting it. If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel.

Lift with your legs, not your back. Do not work to the point of exhaustion. Don’t pick up that shovel without a doctor’s permission if you have a history of heart disease.

If you feel tightness in the chest or dizziness, stop immediately. A clear driveway is not worth your life. It is very important to follow snow blower safety rules.

Be safe with these tips from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. If the blower jams, turn it off.

Keep your hands away from the moving parts. Do not drink alcohol and use the snow blower. Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space.

Refuel your snow blower when it is off, never when it is running. Every year we get a rash of vehicle accidents during the first storm of the season.

I always wonder how anyone that lives in Wisconsin can forget how to drive in the “white stuff” but they do. Vehicle safety during the next several months starts with preparation.

Check the weather before you go, if the weather is frigid, you’re going to want to warm up the car before you drive it. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never leave a vehicle running in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

If the forecast looks iffy, wait out the storm if possible. But if you must travel make sure you share your travel plans and route with someone before you leave.

If you become stranded in an unfamiliar area, do not leave your car. Light flares in front and behind the car and make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow, mud or any object.

Besides checking the weather, it’s important to check the condition of your vehicle before heading out on the road. You’ve done all you can to prepare your car, you’ve checked the weather, but suddenly you find yourself driving in a slippery mess.

If visibility is severely limited due to a whiteout, pull off the road and don’t even attempt to drive farther until conditions improve. But sometimes water or ice on the road can surprise drivers, even with little to no precipitation.

Do you know how to prevent a skid? Would you know what to do if you ended up sliding toward another vehicle or fixed object? The following recommendations come from AAA.

Never mix radial tires with other types of tires. Avoid using your parking brake to slow or stop. Do not use the cruise control in wintery conditions. Look and steer in the direction you want to go.

Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Increase your following distance from 8 to 10 seconds. Know whether you have antilock brakes, which will “pump” the brakes for you in a skid.

If possible, don’t stop when going uphill. Keep your gas tank at least half-full. If you do get stranded, don’t try to push your vehicle out of the snow. Signal distress with a brightly colored cloth tied to the antenna or in a rolled up window.

Make sure you have a survival kit in your car in the event you get stranded. Gather all the basic items you would need for several days and steer clear of items that will freeze and make a mess out of your survival supplies.

We talked about these “ready kits” and the State of Wisconsin has very good information on their “Ready Wisconsin” website. It’s coming whether or not we like it. Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, the Polar Vortex, SnOMG! I think I’ll just call it the “white stuff.”

Until next week, stay safe

Chief Rindfleisch