Wintertime fun and safety

T-L File Photo/SHELLEY HANSON BILL SUTO, water superintendent for the city of Martins Ferry, shovels snow last winter in front of the City Building on Fifth Street.

MARTINS FERRY — It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were basking in the hot sunshine of summer, swimming, cutting tall grass and sipping lemonade on the porch.

Such memories do make one long for the warmth of that season again, but we will just have to wait and deal with winter first.

Wintertime doesn’t have to be all gloom and darkness, however. First of all, there are few things more beautiful than fresh fallen snow, especially when the sunlight hits it and makes it sparkle. Sure you have to eventually scrape it off your sidewalk and, if you must venture out, off the car as well.

But there is fun to be had during winter: sledding, skiing, snowman-building, snowball fights, winter bird watching and ice skating, just to name a few. But it’s important to remember some basics in terms of safety. For example, knowing how to safely drive in the snow is important. One rule many people forget is to simply slow down.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Joe Weaver said in addition to slowing down, drivers should also take care to keep their distance from other vehicles to allow for stopping time, and to move over when they see flashing lights on the side of the road. This includes lights from tow trucks, emergency vehicles and police.

“Before they even leave their house, they should make sure their vehicle is in good working condition,” Weaver said. “And they should have at least half a tank of gas at all times.”

Weaver added it is important to have enough gas because if one gets stuck in traffic waiting for an accident to get cleared, they could run out of fuel and become stranded in the cold themselves.

“Make sure your tires have enough tred and proper inflation,” he said, adding that winter tires are not required as long as one’s tires have good tred on them. “As long as they’re not down to the wear bars.”

Weaver said if one’s vehicle gets stuck in the snow, it is important to have an emergency kit handy to help keep occupants safe and warm while waiting for help. It should contain a blanket (preferably not a white one as white would blend in with the snow), bottled water, a spare tire that is inflated and a flashlight with extra batteries.

Having a working flashlight will not only allow one to see if the car battery dies at night, but it will allow others to see you on the side of the road.

Weaver said drivers also should keep their distance from snowplows to allow them to work properly.

And while many vehicles have four-wheel drive these days, Weaver said drivers should not become over confident because of it. Why? Because four-wheel-drive is meant to help one get started in the snow, it does nothing to help one stop better or faster, he said.

Now that the safety aspect of winter driving is out of the way, it is time for the fun stuff. For those who care to brave the cold temperatures, a favorite pastime for many is sled riding. There are a variety of vehicles on the market these days for children and adults alike to use, but in a pinch, even a sturdy piece of cardboard will work on a steep enough hill. Just be sure the area you are sledding in doesn’t contain hazards to run into, such as trees, cars, bodies of water or streets.

Another fun snow past time is fort building. Most toy stores have brickmakers complete with a handle, but any plastic container can serve as a mold to make bricks of all shapes and sizes.

And, of course, when the snow is sticky enough it is prime snowman-building time. Make one big enough and it will last for days as long as the temperature doesn’t warm too much. It is also fun to dress the snowman in colorful scarves and hats. A carrot can be used for the nose, rocks for the eyes and twigs for the arms. If one has an orange or red pepper in the fridge, a couple pieces can be cut out to make plump lips for a snow woman.

Playing in the snow not your cup of tea? Then stay inside and drink a cup of the brew while enjoying a favorite hobby. Wintertime can be a prime time for birdwatching, as snow provides the perfect white backdrop to frame birds sitting in trees, bushes or looking for seeds on the ground.

Winter is another good time to catch up on hobbies not done in earnest during warmer months, such as reading, writing, crocheting or other arts and crafts. In fact, January is National Hobby Month — and perhaps no better a time to start a new hobby to while away the winter months until spring rears its beautiful head again in the Ohio Valley.

According to, in addition to January being National Hobby Month, today also is National Gluten-Free Day, National Rubber Ducky Day and National Sticker Day.