How to Survive If You Are Stranded in a Blizzard
Feb 18, 2019 07:25AM
● By Editor
Photo: The Weather Channel
From the Weather Channel - Posted: February 18, 2019
It's advised not to travel – by car or on foot – in a dangerous winter storm.
But if, by chance, you are caught in the storm, there are ways to survive the worst-case scenarios, according to meteorologist Bonnie Schnieder, who appears on The Weather Channel and is author of Extreme Weather.
In her book, Schneider breaks down the science behind extreme weather and offers advice on what to do before, during and after Mother Nature's most terrifying events.
If You Are Stuck in Your Car
Charles Dornford, a staff sergeant in United States Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, teaches cold weather survival to Department of Defense personnel at one of the most frigid places on earth: Arctic Alaska.
Dornford says a winter survival kit for your car is crucial. “It should be tailored to the environment you find yourself in. If you live or are working in an area with cold temps and lots of snow, you should have a good sleeping bag, extra warm clothes, food, water (or a way to melt snow), metal container (to melt snow), candles, matches, winter hat, gloves, boots, flashlight, and some sort of signal light. I have all this stuff packed into a duffel back that I keep in the back of my car.”
Here is his advice:
- Immediately ensure that the exterior exhaust on the car is clear of snow so you don't get carbon monoxide buildup in the car.
- Once you find yourself stuck in your car in a snowstorm, the best thing to do is stay put (unless you see a building nearby).
- Then turn the car off. Turn it on every once in a while to heat it up, and then turn it back off to conserve gas.
- Continue to check the tailpipe each time you turn the heater on.
- Some of the ways to keep warm in the car are doing various exercises. Just do a set of pushups or flutter kicks every once in a while.
- You also need to stay hydrated while you are out there. If you don't have water in the car, you will need to melt snow. The more hydrated you are, the warmer you will be.
- Keep your seatbelt on, and put on your hazard lights. Even if you're pulled over, people can still hit you.
- Turn on your hazard lights or place roadside flares near your car to alert other drivers and/or potential rescuers that you are there.
If You Are Stuck on Foot
At the Eielson Air Force Base in Moose Creek, Alaska, where Dornford teaches military personnel how to survive if isolated in arctic elements, students spend several days a week outside in temperatures that range from -40F to 20F.
"One of the most extreme times I've had was teaching a class out here in Alaska in -57F (we don't have a temperature cut off where we cancel training). Although we were outside all day and night, we didn't have any cold injuries.
"Another pretty crazy time was training people on the Greenland icecap when it was -20 with 50 mph sustained winds. Good times," Dornford recalls.
While most people likely will not find themselves in such extreme cold temperatures, Dornford offers some tips that anyone could use if they are stranded on foot in a snowstorm.
- Dress properly for cold weather. Wear layers and proper footwear. "A lack of preparation can lead to things like people being outside in a blizzard in tennis shoes or not having any gloves," Dornford says.
- Make sure you stay hydrated. "Dehydration is a very dangerous thing in a survival situation. Once you are dehydrated, you are much more likely to get frostbite and hypothermia. You will also not be thinking clearly and may start making poor decisions," Dornford says.
Is it Safe to Eat Snow?
"It is highly advised to melt snow before consuming it. Eating snow can significantly lower your core body temperature. However, if you are being very active, to the point of almost overheating, eating snow to stay hydrated isn't the end of the world," Donfor says.
"A better option would be to use that body heat from activity to melt the snow. If you have a sealable container, put it in between your layers of clothing near your core. You also need to check it periodically to make sure it doesn't spill. Once you begin to melt the snow, stir it with something often to melt it down quicker. It takes a lot of snow to procure a decent amount of drinking water. Snow to water is about a 10 to 1 ratio. It is a very slow process. Still, it's better than nothing.”