What you need to know if you're traveling in winter weather

by: Kimberly Richardson Updated:

ATLANTA - Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for traveling -- whether you're driving or flying. 

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for north Georgia and metro Atlanta. 

[READ: School and business closings, delays]

Now is the time to download our free Severe Weather Team 2 app on your smartphones and tablets. There, you can get the latest updates on winter weather.

 [DOWNLOAD: Severe Weather Team 2 Weather App]

AAA recommends the following winter driving tips:

  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  • Never run a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Always look and steer where you want to go.
  • Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.

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American Red Cross recommends the following winter driving tips: 

While the Red Cross encourages you to stay off the road if possible, if you have to drive in snow or freezing rain, follow these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm or what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:

  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need.
  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
  • Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
  • If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.

If you become stuck in the snow or icy conditions, these tips are for you:

  • Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
  • Carry an emergency preparedness kit in the trunk.

 

Tips for long-distance winter trips:

  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
  • Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
  • Pack a cellular telephone with your local AAA’s telephone number, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

Tips for driving in the snow:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) and need to slow down quickly, press hard on the pedal-it’s normal for the pedal to vibrate a bit when the ABS is activated.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

What to do if you're flying this week: 

Delta Airlines:

Due to forecasted weather in the Southeastern US travel to/from/through the cities below might be impacted. Check flight status frequently for up-to-the-minute info about your flight plans, or get updates sent directly to your wireless device or email with Delta Messenger

If you wish to cancel your trip as a result of a flight cancelation or significant delay (90 minutes or more), you are entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your ticket. Even if your flight is not canceled, you may make a one-time change to your ticket without fee if you are scheduled to travel to, from, or through the following destination(s) on Delta, Delta Connection®, or Delta-coded flights during the specified time periods listed below.

You can now edit your itinerary on delta.com or you may contact Reservation Sales to make changes to your itinerary. 

The following cities affected are below: 

Asheville, NC (AVL)
Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Birmingham, AL (BHM)
Charlotte, NC (CLT)
Chattanooga, TN (CHA)
Columbia, SC (CAE)
Fayetteville, NC (FAY)
Greensboro, NC (GSO)
Greenville Spartanburg, SC (GSP)
Huntsville, AL (HSV)
Jacksonville, NC (OAJ)
Knoxville, TN (TYS)
Nashville, TN (BNA)
New Bern, NC (EWN)
Newport News, VA (PHF)
Norfolk, VA (ORF)
Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU)
Tri-Cities, TN (TRI)
Wilmington, NC (ILM)

Southwest Airlines: 

Based on the forecasted weather conditions, Southwest's scheduled service on Friday, January 6, through Saturday, January 7, may be disrupted (flights may be delayed, diverted, and/or canceled) to/from the following cities:

Atlanta (ATL)
Birmingham (BHM)
Charlotte (CLT)
Greenville/Spartanburg (GSP)
Nashville (BNA)
Norfolk (ORF)
Raleigh/Durham (RDU)

Customers who are holding reservations on January 6 or January 7, 2017, and want to alter their travel plans may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with our our accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge.

Customers who purchased their itinerary via Southwest.com or our mobile app are eligible to reschedule their travel plans online or from their mobile device.

Customers who did not purchase a ticket via Southwest.com can call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a Customer Representative.

United Airlines: 

When severe weather or other major events may impact our operations, United Airlines sometimes issue travel waivers to allow you to change to alternate flights without paying a change fee. Travel waivers currently in effect are listed below. ​

Asheville, NC (AVL)
Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Birmingham, AL (BHM)
Charlotte, NC (CLT)
Chattanooga, TN (CHA)
Columbia, SC (CAE)
Fayetteville, NC (FAY)
Greensboro, NC (GSO)
Greenville, SC (GSP)
Huntsville, AL (HSV)
Knoxville, TN (TYS)
Nashville, TN (BNA)
Norfolk, VA (ORF)
Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU

The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new flights departing on or before January 10, 2017, as long as travel is rescheduled in the same cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​

For additional information about what to do if your travel is affected by a waiver, visit the Flight Delays and Cancelations page. 

American Airlines: 

When severe weather or other uncontrollable events impact your flight and travel dates, you may be able to change your trip with no change fee.

If you’re traveling to/through/from:

Ashville, North Carolina (AVL)
Atlanta, Georgia (ATL)
Birmingham, Alabama (BHM)
Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT)
Chattanooga, Tennessee (CHA)
Columbia, South Carolina (CAE)
Fayetteville, North Carolina (FAY)
Greensboro, North Carolina (GSO)
Greenville / Spartanburg, South Carolina (GSP)
Huntsville, Alabama (HSV)
Richlands, North Carolina (OAJ)
Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS)
Nashville, Tennessee (BNA)
New Bern, North Carolina (EWN)
Newport News, Virginia (PHF)
Norfolk, Virginia (ORF)
Raleigh / Durham, North Carolina (RDU)
Blountville, Tennessee (TRI)
Wilmington, North Carolina (ILM)
Montgomery, Alabama (MGM)

The change fee may be waived if you:

  • Are traveling on an American Airlines flight
  • Bought your ticket by January 4, 2017
  • Are scheduled to travel January 6 - 7, 2017
  • Can travel January 4 - 10, 2017
  • Don't change your origin or destination city
  • Rebook in the same cabin or pay the difference
  • Change your trip

 

Look up your trip and see if you have the ‘change trip’ button to change it online.

Look up your trip

Can't change your trip online?

Contact Reservations 

Stay with WSBTV.com and Channel 2 Action News as our team of five meteorologists tracks the latest forecast models to keep you one step ahead of the winter weather headed our way.

You can also follow our meteorologists on Twitter throughout the next few days for the latest on the winter forecast: @GlennBurnsWSB@KarenMintonWSB@BradNitzWSB@BMonahanWSB and @KatieWallsWSB.