Winter is upon us! I wanted to take the time to talk about being stuck in the snow. In 2004 I lived in Flint Michigan and worked in Detroit, a 70 mile drive. The recession had already set in in Michigan and I was fortunate to have a Job working security at the Detroit Auto Show, but the cost of having this job was that I could NOT miss a day. When a monster snow storm moved in overnight I did not really expect it to be a huge deal the next day. This is Michigan right, the roads will be cleared everything will be fine.
I had to be at work at 0500hrs, which meant that I had to leave Flint Mi at 0330. The good news was that I was going to ride with the boss’ son-he would drive the Suburban and I would go along for the ride. Well, not quite. Turns out that his father was having me pick him up in my 1998 Front Wheel Drive Dodge Neon. Needless to say, I had NEVER driven in this kind of snow. It was already a foot deep and still coming down.
We set out from Holly, MI (a few miles from Flint) at 0400 and were moving along fine, were on I-75 going about 35mph the first car on fresh snow. I figured if I kept the speed low and pressed on we would be fine. I knew I should not break suddenly or jerk the wheel.
25 miles later outside of Pontiac Michigan, something spooked me. I lost control, and spun us right into a ditch.. Now its 0530 the car is off and upright. We did not flip but we are down an embankment. The snow is just about 2.5 feet deep. We are both in thin pants, light shirts and have good coats, gloves and hats. But neither of us have boots.
We are about 4 miles from anywhere. I have AAA and we have cell service.
We call for help: Not only did the AAA person act like they knew why we were calling but before I could get to the details she tells me no one will be able to reach me until at least 10:00 am..
The problem: the current temperature is 11° F and with the windchill that takes it down to -34°F. I have NEVER been in a situation like this before in my life. I am 24 years old and unprepared. It was indeed one of the most nerve racking times of my life. I was fortunate to have my buddy with me. Growing up in Michigan he knew what to do.. We were fortunate that the car still started.. We ran the engine every 20 minutes for 5 minutes. This allowed the engine to not get too cold but also not to run all the time. We cracked the windows so that we did not get poisoned by fumes from Carbon monoxide. We talked, we stayed warm, and we were fortunate to have a estimated time of rescue.
But those were the longest 6 hours of my life, and I vowed to always be prepared for that type of emergency so if it ever happened again I would be okay. The truth is that if I were farther from a town it would have taken even longer to get rescued. After six hours our fuel was basically gone I doubt we could have turned the engine over more then a few more times. This was indeed a life lesson..
So what steps can you take to prepare yourself for this type of situation? Getting stuck in the snow can happen to anyone 4×4 or not, heck you could even have mattracks and still get stuck in the snow if you had an engine failure. We need to take some steps to prepare for this type of situation.
- Plan ahead. That’s what you are doing right NOW! Take time to think through possible emergency scenarios, you can then equip yourself accordingly.
- You may already have a 72 hour kit, but you can make a car emergency kit for the trunk. Pack a crank radio, a crank flashlight and at least a gallon of bottled water you can keep this in a insulated shopping bag or cooler and you can help it from freezing over before you need it. Also include
- easy to store food, such as energy bars, trail mix, peanut butter and crackers. Avoid chocolate, high sodium foods or any items that will increase your thirst.
- Pack a compact sleeping bag,
- a blanket,
- a shovel,
- tire chains
- Don’t forget your first aid kit,
- a map as your GPS may not work when you run out of batteries,
- fire-starting supplies,
- a tow rope
- A bright-colored flag or large cloth.
- Watch the weather report. Always be aware of what may be coming!
If you will be winter hiking, the weather can change precipitously fast. Dress appropriately, and carry in a backpack any gear you will need to shelter while the snowstorm passes. Wear layers so you can add or remove clothing as needed to ensure that you stay warm and dry.
- Keep your cell phone or satellite phone fully charged. Notify someone of your situation. If you can’t get a decent signal, try calling 911. If you can, look into backup phone charging systems that use batteries or hand cranks.
- When you are headed out of town or into a potentially dangerous situation always Tell someone where you are going, and don’t deviate from your planned route. This applies whether you are driving or hiking.
- If you’re driving, pull over and stay with your car. Maintain at least a half tank of gas, and make sure your windshield washer fluid and oil are topped off. If you get stranded, you will need to run your engine to stay warm, and you’ll need every drop of gas you can get. Run your car for about 10 minutes each hour. Turn off the lights and radio when the car is not running to avoid running the battery down. If you have a crank radio, listen to it for weather updates.
- If you have to leave your car for any reason, tie one end of the tow rope to the car, and tie the other end to your waist to ensure you can find your way back safely. If you are stuck once the snowstorm has passed, raise the hood of your car to signal an emergency. You can also post a flag or tie the handkerchief to the antenna to signal you need help.
- Ration your supplies. Eat small snacks every hour or so to give your body an energy source with which to generate heat. Drink about 4 ounces (half cup) of water every hour or so to prevent dehydration
- Stay put. Although it may seem strange, snow is actually a really good insulator. If there is enough snow you can bury your vehicle to help keep winter winds from stealing your vehicles heat. Just make sure you create an airway for fresh air and keep one of the doors free enough to get out.
- You will also want to create a way of signaling rescuers if your vehicle is hidden by snow. If you’re hiking, take shelter in a nearby building, build a snow cave or take cover under trees.
- Block off unused space. Use anything at your disposal to block off any space in your vehicle that is not being used. Blankets, leaves, whatever you can find to shove into spaces where heat can be lost.
- Run Your vehicle for 10 minutes every hour – Make sure to keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow or debris. Poison gases can enter into your car if the pipe is clogged.
- Bundle Up – Keep extra dry clothes, warm blankets, gloves, hats and winter socks in your vehicle.
- If you are not alone huddle together. Huddling together in a small space can increase the amount of heat in that area. Remember to block off any space that’s not being used, then huddle closely together to generate more body heat. Don’t forget to move – Move your arms, hands legs, feet and toes to improve your circulation and to keep warm.How to stay warm if your car get’s stranded in a winter storm.