Protecting your home and community

Are You Safe Driving Through a Winter Storm?

Do you really have to go?

Car stuck in snow with HELP written on windshield

When all else fails

Authorities recommend all drivers stay at home or in place when hazardous weather strikes. Weather is unpredictable, and sometimes you find yourself in weather you didn’t expect.

It’s essential for your safety and that of your family to be prepared whenever you leave home in your car. If you live in a state that experiences bad weather regularly, you probably already have all the things you need. But if you’re like most people, you probably don’t have at least a few, and you are unlikely to have an emergency plan.

Are you ready to drive in bad weather?

What are you going to do if you get stuck? Even big trucks and SUVs get stuck in the snow. Sometimes there’s just too much of it (even monster snow plows get stuck!). Sometimes you’re in the middle of a jam of cars that just aren’t going anywhere.

Before You Go Out

Caucasian woman shoveling snow outdoors

Collapsible shovels fit into smaller cars

Here are some resources on some ways to get ready, from planning tools to lists of what to carry. Some cars aren’t going to be big enough to hold everything: just do what you can. Remember, it’s up to you to keep yourself and your family safe. And, before long, this storm will be a memory. Whether the memory is of a tragedy or an exciting adventure might just depend on what you do before you go out.

If you do get stuck in your car during a blizzard, here are some do’s and don’ts, courtesy of FEMA.

If a blizzard traps you in the car:

  • Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window. Remember, emergency vehicles can’t get to stranded motorists if the roads are blocked.
  • Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful; distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close, but be too far to walk to in deep snow.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation.
  • Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
  • Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
  • Eat regularly and drink ample fluids to avoid dehydration, but avoid alcohol.
  • Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – the use of lights, heat, and radio – with supply.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.
  • If stranded in a remote area, stomp large block letters in an open area spelling out HELP or SOS and line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane.
  • After the blizzard passes–and only if necessary–leave the car and proceed on foot.
Crate with emergency kit items

If you have to go out, be prepared recommends the following readiness items in your trunk:

  • a shovel
  • windshield scraper and small broom
  • flashlight
  • battery powered radio
  • extra batteries
  • water
  • snack food
  • matches
  • extra hats, socks and mittens
  • first aid kit with pocket knife
  • necessary medications
  • blanket(s)
  • tow chain or rope
  • road salt and sand
  • booster cables
  • emergency flares
  • fluorescent distress flag

Grumpy cat meme: Get me out of here

Subscribe to Public Health Preparedness

Your email address