The thought of becoming immobilized and snowbound in your vehicle is hard to imagine. Even though it’s unlikely, every year extreme winter weather causes folks to be stranded in their vehicles for hazardous periods of time.
The cause can be extreme snowfall, but perhaps more commonly it’s a wreck, disabled vehicle, or traffic circumstances that cause prolonged backups.
Whatever the unfortunate circumstances and causes, if you become snowbound in your vehicle, here are some tips to keep you and your family safe.
In Most Cases, Don’t Abandon Your Vehicle
It’s okay to leave your car if you’re sure of your location relative to known shelters, and/or can see accessible buildings that are superior shelter. Visibility is significantly reduced in winter storms, so before choosing to exit the safety of your vehicle, be sure you have your bearings, and always maintain the ability to return to your vehicle if you can’t reach the planned shelter for some reason.
If you’re not fortunate enough to be within a safe walking distance of shelter and help, then staying with your vehicle is the best course of action.
Make Your Vehicle as Visible as Possible
Engage your hazard lights. If it’s dark outside, keeping an interior dome light on provides rescuers with something additional to notice. If you have a bright-colored rag or item, tie it to the top of your antenna.
Conserve Your Energy, and Conserve Your Car’s Fuel
There isn’t necessarily a clear end in sight if you’ve become stranded in winter weather. So it’s crucial that you don’t panic and overexert yourself trying to futilely dig, or push your vehicle out of trouble.
If it’s unknown how long you’ll be stuck, conserve gas and run your vehicle as little as possible to maintain a safe interior temperature. In an active storm with accumulating snow, check the tailpipe every time you start the vehicle and make sure it’s is clear of snow while the vehicle is running.
Low Power Mode, or Power off Your Cell Phone
Keep this in mind especially if you don’t have a car charger. Select a power mode with your phone that allows for vital communications only. If no communications are likely, or they wouldn’t be helpful during a given period of time, shut down your phone and save the battery for when you need it.
Identify Car Interior Components for Insulation From the Cold
It may not sound appealing, but in a true survival situation, you’ll want to utilize everything available inside your vehicle’s windows to insulate from the cold. This includes floor mats, seat cushions, fabric, newspapers, and paper maps. In some vehicles, the trunk floor and side liners are removable.
While in the initial stages of being snowbound you might think you’re a long ways off from having to use these sorts of materials for survival, familiarizing yourself with everything available ahead of time could be a lifesaver if it comes to that.
If you can no longer control your interior vehicle temperature (you’ve run out of fuel), keep your hands, arms, legs, feet, and toes moving. This encourages blood circulation and warmth.
It’s little consolation if you’re snowbound, but on the bright side, you’ll not be faced with dehydration thanks to the ability to melt snow.
Snow melts well in bright metal containers or with your body heat.
The act of huddling together, called “social thermoregulation” in scientific terms, occurs across many species and is a proven survival tactic in adverse winter weather.
If your plight is shared with others, then plan to huddle up if the circumstances trend negative.
Be Prepared in Advance
Hopefully, you’ve happened to read this article before you become snowbound. If so, there’s a lot you can do to make sure you’re equipped to handle the situation if it ever occurs.
Keeping survival items in your car throughout the winter is the best possible defense. Winter survival and mobility items include:
- Proper winter outerwear, boots, hat, and gloves
- Sleeping bag
- Ice scraper
- Road salt or cat litter
- Emergency flares
- Jumper cables
- Tow rope
- Pocket knife
- Duct tape
- Paper towels and plastic (garbage) bags
- High-calorie foods & fluids
Needless to say, avoid travel in extreme winter weather if at all possible. Always keep your vehicle full of gas throughout winter, and equip your car with proper winter tires to significantly decrease your chances of becoming snowbound and stranded.