You checked the weather the night before. In the morning, you checked it again on your phone’s weather app. The snow storm wasn’t supposed to hit until later that evening, giving you plenty of time to make it home safely. But despite your best laid plans, you end up stranded in your car.
Here are tips for how to prepare in case this happens to you:
• Drive with a full charge or tank of gas. In a really bad storm, it’s likely you’ll be stuck on the road for hours, and in particularly bad situations possibly even a day or more. Being able to turn your car on for short amounts of time (such as 20 minutes every hour) will allow you to warm the inside up enough to avoid getting hypothermia. It will also ensure the battery remains charged.
• Keep a snow brush, ice scraper, and snow shovel in your car. To prevent the snow from burying your car, use a brush to clear off the roof, then move on to the windows, back and trunk, and mirrors. Assuming you have enough gas, also turn on your defrosters while scraping away any ice that’s formed on your front and back windshields. Clear the snow from your tires around your car with a regular snow shovel or one made specially made for vehicles.
• Carry sand or cat litter in your trunk. Sprinkling it around your tires can provide traction so your wheels have something to grip when you accelerate. If you have an automatic, make sure to accelerate slowly. If you drive an automatic, accelerate slowly in the lowest gear possible.
• Check your tailpipe. If you’re stranded during a snowstorm, it’s extremely important that you make sure your tailpipe is clear of any snow, mud, or any other obstruction. With a clogged pipe, it takes just minutes before the inside of a running vehicle reaches carbon monoxide levels that are life threatening. Fifteen to twenty minutes of carbon monoxide poisoning can kill.
• Have an extra hat, gloves, and boots with you. Keep a hat (one that covers your ears), a pair of gloves, and a pair of winter boots in your car. These will help reduce the risk of frostbite when stepping outside your vehicle. Remember that single-digit temperatures (in Fahrenheit) are cold enough to cause frostbite.
• Store extra blankets in your car. Having a few extra blankets in the car can help keep you warm(er) as you wait until you’re able to drive on, the storm is over, or you’re rescued.
• Carry some emergency food. Your body needs food to help it maintain heat, so keeping a small emergency stash of food in your car isn’t just a way to stave off hunger, it’s also a way to keep your body working more efficiently. Good foods to keep handy for emergencies are granola bars, nuts (unless you’re allergic, of course), and dried fruits.
• Keep emergency equipment on hand. Items you’ll want to keep in your car year-round, but especially during the Winter season, are jumper cables, flares, a flashlight (make sure the batteries are new), baby wipes/toilet paper, several garbage bag (to eliminate waste), feminine products, and of course a first-aid kit.
• Carry a cell phone charger and portable battery. Your cell phone is your connection to the world and, depending on where you’re stranded, possibly the best way to try to get help (assuming you’re not in a dead zone). A car charger will allow you to power your phone while the car is on, which may be enough. But if you run out of gas, your car battery is dead, or you can’t run your car often enough, a portable battery is an important option to have.