With winter fast approaching, the U.S. Forest Service urges outdoor enthusiasts to 'Know Before You Go" and follow simple tips to stay safe when visiting the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie and Croatan National Forests during the colder months.
"The forests can provide stunning scenery and recreational opportunities during the winter, but it is important to be aware of the dangers and risks associated with winter weather," said Rick Gamber, safety officer with the National Forests in North Carolina. "Snow storms, freezing temperatures and long exposure to cold winds are all concerns when recreating in the national forests in the winter months."
Severe injuries and fatalities can occur during the winter due to road conditions after a snow or ice storm. Motorists should be aware of icy conditions on shaded areas of roadways. Drivers should use common sense when traveling on Forest Service roads and obey speed limits. Gamber also encourages motorists to have appropriate tires, to not travel alone and carry emergency kits containing items such as water, pre-packaged snack foods, warm clothing, a blanket and matches.
Gamber says visitors to the national forests should pay attention to their surroundings and to their capabilities in the woods. People who remain outdoors for an extended period of time such as hikers and hunters are susceptible to hypothermia, a condition where the body experiences abnormally low body temperature which can lead to death.
"It's very important to dress in layers to maintain proper body temperature, and to layer your foot protection also with wool socks being the first layer while hiking in the cold to avoid hypothermia," said Gamber.
Frostbite is another injury common to those spending significant time outdoors in the winter months. Frostbite is a progressive injury caused by freezing of the skin and tissue, which causes a loss of feeling in the affected areas. It is important to take steps to avoid frostbite. Visitors should stay warm and dry with many layers and do not expose skin such as the tip of your nose, ears and fingers to the cold for extended periods of time.
"If you think you or a companion is experiencing frostbite, seek warm shelter and immerse the affected area in room temperature, not hot, water," said Gamber. "Do not rub the frostbitten area, as this can cause more damage."
Before heading out to enjoy your national forests this winter, "know before you go" and contact the local Ranger District office to get the latest information about current road conditions and seasonal closures.
Click here for more information on outdoor safety tips. Keeping these safety tips in mind will help outdoor enthusiasts safely enjoy winter in the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie and Croatan national forests.
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