We're not out of the winter woods yet at the end of February. Snow and ice may still be in the picture as March blows in. It's good to be ready in case we have another unforgettable freeze-up.
Two big snows in three days last week were pretty to look at, but there wasn't much to love about the subzero temperatures. Before that, there was the treacherous glaze of ice that coated the region on Feb. 10. Travel on wheels or foot is easier in a few inches of snow than a thin layer of clear, dangerous ice.
Back in the day, lots of folks dusted off their old golf shoes with metal spikes to mosey out on the driveway to pick up their newspaper and check their mailbox. Nowadays, ice grippers that slip easily over the soles of shoes or boots are lifesavers, or at least hip savers, when it's slick. They're like tire chains for the feet.
Different brands are available. We rely on our trusty Yaktrax to get around on snow, but more so on ice. That was the case Feb. 10. I don't recall ever seeing roads and walkways so slick. Driving was out of the question, at least out here in the countryside. I pulled on my dependable Yaktrax and got around on foot with ease.
They're so simple and work so well. Yaktrax are made of stretchy rubber. Their bottoms that contact the ice are wrapped in spirals of metal, like springs, that grip the ice with each footstep. A set of Yaktrax will set you back about $20. They're worth way more in an icy deep freeze.
Snow and ice are big news around here. We, reporters and photographers, are out in the thick of it, covering the storm. Years ago, the ice was so bad that the honchos here at the newspaper arranged a deal to buy a whole bunch of these Yaktrax at a big discount. That is, if enough of us signed up to buy them. About everyone did, and we all got our Yaktrax for next to nothing.
They helped our news staff cover the storm more safely. For the office crew, they could walk from their cars to the front door and stay upright.
That was 15 or 20 years ago, and I still rely on those same Yaktrax I bought back then. It helps that they're only needed maybe three days a year and not even every year around here.
Our spell of real winter put them to the test. There are two things I've learned about Yaktrax or similar grippers. One, if you put them on indoors, be careful walking on tile or linoleum when headed outside. They're slippery.
Two, they don't grip worth a darn on an icy wooden deck. When I shoveled four inches of snow off my deck -- twice in three days -- a thin layer of ice was under that snow. My Yaktrax didn't grip well on the slick wood.
Let's hope spring really is right around the corner and nobody will need golf shoes or Yaktrax the rest of the year. Yet now may be a good time to buy to be ready when winter brings snow and ice next year.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]
Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWAFlip.