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What you need to pack for a safe highway drive this Christmas

Dangerously low temperatures and poor visibility have CAA Manitoba urging drivers to reconsider their holiday travel plans. Tyler Schroeder / Global News

With winter storms on either side of the country forcing thousands to cancel their holiday travel plans, Manitoba appears to be safe from the worst of this weekend’s stormy weather. Local drivers may not think twice before travelling within the province this Christmas weekend.

But Elisha Dacey with CAA Manitoba says motorists should take precautions for even short trips on the highway.

“While the storms may not be hitting Manitoba, it’s still very, very cold out, we do have a blowing snow advisory out, so visibility outside of the city of Winnipeg and outside of Brandon are going to be lower than normal,” she said.

CAA has experienced about double their normal number of calls this week, with Dacey citing battery troubles as making up roughly half. The cold snap in Winnipeg isn’t expected to break until Dec. 27, and Dacey expects demand for CAA’s services to remain high through Christmas weekend.

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“This is the time to absolutely make sure your winter car kit is fully stocked,” she said.

A winter vehicle kit should include:

  • warm winter clothes and blankets
  • candles and matches
  • a snow shovel
  • non-perishable food
  • water
  • booster cables
  • phone charger cable and fully charged battery pack
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight and fully charged batteries
  • window scraper

Dacey also urges drivers to obey closed road signs.

“If you get stranded on a closed road, we cannot help you,” she said. “We cannot come get you.”

Ron Barsky, owner of Bramer Automotive Centre, also tells his customers to prepare for the worst when travelling on the highway. Drivers should be prepared to stay in their vehicles for several hours should they get stranded in rural areas.

“Make sure you have enough gas in the tank,” he said. “Really, in this type of weather, I wouldn’t let it go below half a tank.”

Barsky says winter tires help with traction, but keeping them at the right pressure is just as important. Cold weather often causes air to leak out slowly, so he recommends checking them regularly.

Until the dangerously low temperatures are gone, Dacey hopes Manitobans consider what’s at stake when planning their highway trips this weekend.

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“As much as it pains me to say it, if you don’t need to travel, it is probably a good idea to stay home this Christmas,” Dacey said. “And that’s so hard, especially after a couple of years of pandemic, and we haven’t seen our families…. Honestly, it may not be worth the risk to travel on some of those roads.”

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