But it isn't the strawberries we're most concerned about — it's the people. When we lived in Wisconsin, there was one memorable winter when the wind chill factor drove temperatures down to -100 degrees F. That winter, there was one man in our small town who died in his car because he couldn't get it to start and he stayed there until hypothermia took him. Another man died on his porch because he couldn't get the key in the door lock. It doesn't take long at -100 degrees to lose dexterity, and that is the first domino to fall before the rest collapse.
Right now in the Midewest, several cold-related deaths have already taken place, and the winter is just getting started. National Weather Service meteoroligist Jim Taggart said the weather in the region is what would normally be expected in January, but not December. As I write this, we're still more than a week away from the official start of winter, so if this is any indication of things to come, it's going to be a long, cold one.
Some airports have been shut down. Thousands of flights have been cancelled or delayed. At Chicago's O'Hare Airport alone more than 1375 flights were canceled. Stranded travelers are wondering what to do. O'Hare officials set up more than 200 cots and supplied toothbrushes and toothpaste to help ease the situation for those stranded in the airport.
This is a good time to talk about what you can do insofar as personal preparation is concerned.
- Nothing trumps situational awareness — be informed about what's coming before you make plans to travel. Watch the weather forecasts. Look at the long-term situation, not just what's going to happen this afternoon.
- Be prepared to cancel or alter travel plans. If the trip absolutely must happen, consider altering your route so you miss the bad weather, even if it means going out of your way to dodge the trouble.
- Pack your own emergency supplies so you don't have to depend on someone else to share a toothbrush with you. An emergency blanket will help keep you warm, some high calorie snack foods will keep your energy up, and be aware of where the water source is.
- Might be handy if you carry your own emergency supply of toilet paper. I know, it sounds goofy, but you haven't lived until you've been trapped in an airport with a thousand other people and there's no toilet paper in the restrooms.
- Wear appropriate clothing that you would be comfortable in if you were forced to sleep on the floor at the airport. Pack gloves, a watch cap, a scarf, and a base layer of merino wool clothing to help stave off hypothermia or just misery.
- If you have luggage, spread it out and sleep on it rather than on the cold floor. This is assuming there is no more comfortable place to rest — like a chair or bench — which would be your first choice. Trouble is that those spots disappear quickly when folks are stranded, so you might end up on the floor.
- Do not wear fancy clothes or jewelry, and don't flash your money around because that will put a target on your back for thieves who take advantage of the situation when folks find themselves stranded.
- Remain calm and cooperate with officials. Trust me, they don't want you sleeping on their floor any longer than necessary and they're doing everything possible to get you out of their hair as quickly as possible, so it's counterproductive to get upset and behave poorly. Try to be a positive, rather than a negative.