How to Survive a Blizzard in Your Vehicle

How do you survive if you become trapped in your vehicle during a blizzard? With winter fast approaching, this is a good question.

The last few years have seen unseasonably cold and snowy winters in the U.S. Along with sustained cold temperatures, many regions experienced blizzard conditions including heavy snow fall and accumulation, combined with strong winds. Numerous areas were affected, including thousands of miles of roads ranging from major commuter highways down to narrow, twisty mountain roads. This became a recipe for motorists getting stuck in their vehicles during these tough weather conditions and they did.

Coleman Big Game Big a... Best Price: $61.24 Buy New $73.99 (as of 10:45 EST - Details) Blizzards and winter storms are generally forecast by our nation’s weather services. What is not easily predicted is the true amount of snow, wind speeds, and the areas where snow and ice will accumulate.

This means that if you live in or are traveling through to an area that gets winter snow storms, regardless of whether it is urban, suburban or rural, you need to be prepared.

Here’s how.

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Your Vehicle

  • Get your vehicle winterized including, engine, radiator and windshield washer fluids. Don’t forget new wiper blades as well.
  • Have your battery checked.
  • Get your tires checked. Do they have enough tread to last the winter or do you need to change them for all season or snow tires?
  • Put your tire chains or traction mats in the trunk.
  • Print out this free download of what you should keep in a vehicle emergency kit.

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  • Verify that you have a windshield scraper, tow rope, jumper cables, flares, or portable emergency roadway lights. If you have a larger vehicle, in particular, make sure your tow rope is up to the task. You don’t want a 10,000 lb. rated tow rope to pull out an Escalade, but you don’t need a 30,000 lb. one for a VW Bug.
  • Include a small folding shovel and bag of sand or cat litter (the old cheap kind, not the newer clumping kind) in case you get stuck and need to dig out or provide extra traction for your tires.
  • Check your first aid kit and replenish any used supplies.
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Personal Gear

  • Winterize your emergency gear with a couple of space blankets as well as one wool blanket or sleeping bag. The cheap mylar space blankets are great to have, but they rip easily so you might want to splurge on the reusable, higher-quality ones to keep in your car.
  • Make sure your emergency kit includes, among other things, glow sticks, knife or multi-tool, duct tape, flashlight, extra batteries, a lighter, matches, candles for melting snow, pen and paper.
  • Gerber Diesel Multi-Pl... Best Price: $55.88 Buy New $63.20 (as of 10:40 EST - Details) It’s important to have a metal cup or can for melting snow into water. Even an empty soup can will do, provided it’s metal. Most H2O containers will freeze once your vehicle cools down.
  • Store some extra water and high energy foods or snacks like protein bars in the vehicle.
  • Pack a small gear bag with extra clothing. Jacket, hat, socks, and gloves are a minimum – preferably wool or something high tech and waterproof. If you dress up for work, add a complete change of appropriate winter clothing, including snow boots. I also add in a couple packs of chemical hand and foot warmers.

If You Become Stranded

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Stay With Your Vehicle

It is much easier to spot a vehicle than it is a person. Only leave to seek help if you have 100 yards (a football field) of visibility or more and you have a clear, visible objective to go for. Do not just get out and start walking along the road way hoping someone will find you. That is a good way to freeze to death, literally.

Make Your Car as Visible as Possible, Quickly!

Turn on your emergency flashers and dome lights while your engine is running. Tie something bright, like a bandanna, to your antenna or roof rack, if you have one, or hang something bright out a window. If you have glow sticks, put one in both your front and back windows. This will make your vehicle (and you) much more visible, even when it is snowing and blowing heavily. Finally, when the snow has stops, raise the hood of your car.

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