Fall Weather Safety

At the time of this writing, I am enjoying a beautiful train ride along the Hudson River between New York City and Albany. Although the sun is shining and temperatures are in the 70s, some early hints of fall color are showing up on the Catskills to the west. Fall typically is not a time when most of us have ‘hazardous weather’ on our minds, especially here in the northeast U.S. where fall can be one of the most idyllic times of year. However, weather hazards can present themselves in any season, and fall is no exception.

Fog

With relatively mild and humid air still present across much of the country, cooler temperatures and slightly longer nights can lead to the development of fog in low-lying and preferred locations during the overnight and early morning hours. On many mornings, fog is present in the Hudson River valley and other valleys in New York State and gradually burns off by about mid-morning. Fog can quickly become a driving hazard if it persists through the morning commute, as patchy dense fog can catch motorists by surprise.

The National Weather Service issues Dense Fog Advisories when widespread dense fog is present. Even if there is no Dense Fog Advisory in effect, pay extra attention on the roads when the forecast calls for fog. Some of the following tips can help you stay safe:

  • Allow plenty of time to reach your destination
  • Use your low beam headlights, or fog lights if your vehicle has them
  • Leave extra distance between you and the car in front of you
  • Use the highway paint and lane markers to help guide your path
  • If you must pull over, turn on your hazard lights and pull as far off the roadway as possible (good options are to look for a driveway or parking lot)

Rapid Weather Changes

Beautiful fall days often include the enjoyment of many outdoor activities, such as hiking or boating. During this time of year, temperature changes between night and day can be dramatic. As a result, is it easy to become dehydrated as temperatures warm up during the day, and also to find oneself underdressed at night as temperatures fall quickly after sunset. If you have outdoor plans, be sure to travel prepared. Bring plenty of water, and dress in layers so you are prepared for both warm and cool weather conditions. Plan your route in advance and pay close attention to the weather forecast.

Wildfires

While wildfires in the fall are not a tremendous threat in the northeast U.S. (most brush fires actually occur here in the spring, just before the leaves come out), many places in the western U.S. are in the peak fire danger season right now. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) issues regular updates on fire conditions. If you live in or plan to visit a wildfire-prone area, be sure to take proper precautions. These include:

  • Minimize flammable brush and mulch near your home
  • Assemble a basic emergency supply kit
  • Plan escape routes and have a plan of action (be sure everyone is familiar with the plan)
  • Stay alert and pay attention to NWS forecasts, including Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches

Carbon Monoxide

While this is not necessarily a weather-related hazard, carbon monoxide poisoning can happen very easily. During the fall, we often warm up our cars on chilly mornings, as well as begin to use fireplaces and furnaces again for the first time in many months. As a result, accidents can easily happen. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas which is a byproduct of combustion. Keep you and your family safe by taking the following precautions:

  • Ensure your furnace is tuned up and operating properly
  • Never use a gas oven to heat your home
  • Never let a car run in a garage that is attached to your house
  • Always open the door to a detached garage if the car is running
  • Have your chimney checked and cleaned yearly
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home

All this being said, fall is one of the best times of year to travel and enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities. For me, that includes apple picking, leaf peeping, and brisk walks. Enjoy!

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