What to do when stranded in a winter storm

By: Ursula Nizalowski

After what felt like weeks of pure sunshine, winter is finally settling upon us. This means winter storms are on their way, especially in temperate or mountainous areas that are prone to having a lot of snowfall. Now what makes winter storms different from regular storms is the conditions that accompany them such as freezing rain and icy roads. So if drivers are not prepared for these conditions, they could end up stranded. Luckily, here are some tips to follow if you find yourself in this situation.

stranded in a winter storm

When You’re Outside

1) Find Shelter Immediately

When there’s a storm going on, don’t stay in the open for too long. Because prolonged exposure to the cold could lead to serious medical issues like hypothermia, especially for people whose health is weak. For this reason, try to remain dry by seeking a place that is fully covered, such as a vehicle or even a makeshift shelter.

2) Melt Snow To Make Drinking Water

If you don’t have drinking water on hand and you’re still outside, try to melt nearby snow. Otherwise, eating the unmelted snow “will lower your body temperature” according to the National Weather Service which won’t help fight off the cold or the dehydration. Just make sure that it’s pure white snow and not dirty in any way.

3) Exercise To Stay Warm

Standing still in any given place for too long in cold weather isn’t good for your health, as it will make your blood not circulate and not keep you warm. That’s why it’s often advised that you should move around every once in a while. But don’t overexert yourself, as the strain could cause heart attacks for those who are vulnerable to them.

When You’re in a Vehicle

1) Stay Put Until Storm Blows Over

Being in a vehicle during a storm is no fun for anyone, but at least it’s safe. Otherwise, you’ll “become disoriented quickly in wind-driven snow and cold” says the National Weather Service. Although if there are other better types of shelters nearby, like a building, then go to that instead to wait out the winter storm.

2) Conserve Car Motor While Staying Warm

While it is important to stay warm for as long as possible during a winter storm, it’s not a good idea to wear out the car’s motor too quickly. That’s why the Weather Channel advises that the car motor should be turned on “every once in a while to heat it up, and then turn it back off to conserve gas”. Because since you don’t know how long the storm is going to last, being safe is better than taking risks.

3) Turn On Hazard Lights

Visibility during storms can be significantly diminished, which is why drivers should try to make their vehicles as noticeable as possible. This applies to drivers who are stranded as well, because how else are they going to get help and prevent other vehicles from accidentally colliding into their vehicle? So putting on hazard lights is a good idea, or roadside flares depending on what the driver has available.

How To Prepare Better

1) Dress Warmly

It should be obvious, but it can’t be stressed enough to dress appropriately for cold weather. After all, warm clothing protects you from conditions like “frostbite and hypothermia” according to News 12 New Jersey. So picking clothing that is loose-fitting and worn in multiple layers are some options.

2) Check Weather Conditions Beforehand

Generally, one should always check the weather before heading out. Some sources to use are radio channels like the National Weather Service, or websites that cover the weather 24/7. That way, it’ll prevent one from driving through severe winter storms and possibly being stranded in them.

3) Bring Supplies

Regardless if there is an emergency or not, being prepared is never a bad idea. That’s why one should consider having a disaster kit on hand such as a shovel for removing excess snow from one’s vehicle, though especially the exhaust to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, along with other items like water to stay hydrated and blankets for extra warmth.

4) Have Enough Gas

Besides the other precautions mentioned above, having a full tank of gas wouldn’t hurt either. In fact, News 12 New Jersey claims “A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing”. Since much like the car motor, it’s better not to take risks with one’s life.

Now if you do end up in an accident during a winter storm, contact attorney Rick Wagner.