Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Trapped in Car Due to Blizzard?

What if you are on the road and there's a big, honkin' "Monster Winter Storm"? And you are stuck in your car and are so far out in the boondocks so far that sunlight has to be piped in even on the best of days? Like these folks?:
Rescuers on Wednesday pulled a family from a sport utility vehicle that had been buried in a snowdrift on a rural highway in the southwestern state of New Mexico for nearly two days.

State police said rescuers had to dig through 4 feet of ice and snow to free the Higgins family, whose red GMC Yukon got stuck on the highway when a blizzard moved through the area Monday.

Rescuers found David and Yvonne Higgins and their 5-year-old daughter Hannah clinging to each other and lethargic early Wednesday morning. The family is recovering at Miners Colfax Medical Center in Raton.
First: Before you travel, check out your car "winter emergency kit" and make sure you are covered for the dreaded "worst case scenario." Here are some suggestions from New Jersey:
Keep these items in your car:
Flashlights with extra batteries
First aid kit with pocket knife
Necessary medications
Several blankets
Sleeping bags
Extra newspapers for insulation
Plastic bags (for sanitation)
Extra set of mittens, socks, and a wool cap
Rain gear and extra clothes
Small sack of sand for generating traction under
Small shovel
Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
Booster cables
Set of tire chains or traction mats
Cards, games, and puzzles
Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
Canned fruit and nuts
Nonelectric can opener
Bottled water
Another list from Ready.gov includes some other things:
First Aid Kit: remember any necessary medications, baby formula and diapers if you have a small child
Food: non-perishable food such as canned food, and protein rich foods like nuts and energy bars
Radio: battery or hand cranked
Ice scraper
Charged Cell Phone: and car charger
Then, if you have space, don't forget the kids, the luggage and the presents for Granny. Really, NJ? "Several blankets" and "sleeping bags?" Oh, yeah, worst case ... which means I'd cut down on the real blankets and go with space blankets and/or sleeping bags.

Probably ought to have some more emergency food. And if you have pet with you? Don't forget food for Fido or Fluffy. We don't want them looking at the baby and drooling, do we?

Some more suggestions for a car kit on a Weather Channel video here, but while the the stuff shown is nice, it is also pricey. Not saying your life isn't worth a $400 set of Thule quick chains, but ...

At any rate, Popular Mechanics has a 2013 (so last year) list of "7 Things You Must Carry in Your Car This Winter":
If you already have an emergency kit, well done. Essentials such as first-aid supplies, jumper cables, gloves, a flashlight, duct tape, a tow strap, and some simple tools should already be in your trunk—if not for daily driving, then at least when you set out on a road trip. Here are some winter-specific items to include for times when the roads are covered in slush.
Put them on the drive tires!

Snow Socks: When you unexpectedly need extra traction, snow socks are a space-saving, temporary alternative to snow chains. These fabric doughnuts fit easily over the drive tires and can increase grip enough to extricate a stuck car or get it up a slippery hill.

Spare Phone Charger: The cellphone is your primary means of rescue in today's interconnected world. But to reach help you need juice: A charging cord is a good idea, but a hand-crank charger that works away from the car or when the car battery is dead is an even better one.

Hand Warmers and Wool Blanket: Your car provides shelter, but you don't want to run the engine—you have a limited amount of fuel and deadly exhaust may find its way into the cabin. To keep warm, use a blanket, supplemented by hand warmers when it gets really cold.

LED Flashers/Flares: Battery-powered lights work for hours and are great for alerting other drivers if your car is on the side of the road. Flares may seem antiquated, but the heat they put out prevents them from being obscured and buried by driving snow. Plus, in an extreme emergency they can be used to start a warming or signaling fire. Flares are usually sold in packs; make sure you have at least three sticks.

Food and Drink: It's exceptionally rare for anyone to be stranded during a winter blizzard for more than a day. Long-term rations aren't really necessary, but keeping a few energy bars and a plastic bottle or two of sugary energy drink wouldn't hurt. Why the latter? The electrolytes and sugars significantly lower the concoction's freezing point, ensuring you'll still have liquid when you need it.

Shovel: While it might not look like much, a compact folding shovel is plenty big enough to use when digging your car out of the snow.

Windshield De-Icer: An extra bottle of this could mean the difference between seeing the road and seeing yourself parked in a snow bank. Plus, in emergencies you can use the stuff to melt ice on the road or any frozen car parts.
For me, compact gear is better than filling up your car with a whole bunch of equipment, so I'm good with the Weather Channel video and the Popular Mechanics list. A set of "snow socks" or even emergency tire chains can be had for under $100 if you check Amazon for "snow socks." Hand warmer thingies? You might get a box of these or their equivalent at Wal-Mart. There are body warmers, too. Just put a few in the kit, they don't take up a lot of space. My wife, who seems to get colder faster than I do, loves those things. Small folding shovel? Always a good idea, year round. I like the Gerber because it's not a one trick pony and is a good camping shovel, too.

Why the shovel? Not only to keep your tailpipe clear if the car is running, but also to keep the snow from blocking your exit door. Back to the Higgins family:
He was able to keep the car running for a couple of hours, but when he went to get out to clear the exhaust pipe, his door was blocked.
See, if he only had a shovel in the car. Costs a lot less than skis or a DVD player, too.

Second: If you are planning to travel to areas that are subject to heavy snow blizzard conditions, you really ought to have checked the weather forecasts immediately before you get on the road. Look at the forecasts for the areas through which you'll be traveling. And think a little. If you are headed for the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and there are blizzard warnings, well, is this trip really necessary? Headed to the mysterious interior of Nebraska on local roads in a heavy snow storm? Why? But if you do have to travel to such places- there is no excuse for being unprepared to spend up to a few days trapped in the interior of your car out in the middle of nowhere because of "bad luck." By the way, "bad luck" has a way of turning into "dead" if you haven't taken a few precautions for your safety. Yes, it is unlikely that you will be stuck for days, but it can happen.

Good idea to send a travel route plan to your hosts at the destination and to a neighbor or friend. Email is cheap, maps are online and you can let them know when you leave and where you should be when along the route. Cuts down on the time the cops have to look for you.

Third: What happens if you do get stuck in the snow? If the car is still running, good. Perhaps, following the suggestions here you can get the car free. FEMA has some more thoughts:
Some parts of the country experience extreme winter weather including blizzards. If a blizzard traps you in your car, do you know how to survive?

Taking the following steps can help you stay safe until you are found:

- Don’t walk around in the snow to look for help. You might lose your way or become exhausted;
- Remember to occasionally check your tailpipe to make sure it’s free of snow. Clean the pipe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when the engine is running.
- Keep yourself moving! A car offers very little room, but exercise is essential; and
- Make the car visible for a rescue! Hang bright colored cloth or plastic from the windows. If the snow has stopped falling, open the hood of the car as a signal of distress.

If you have a cell phone call 911 to ask for help. Do not hang up until you know whom you have spoken with and what will happen next. You can also sign up for wireless emergency alerts before you travel to receive life-saving alerts wherever you are.
Gotta love the New Jersey advice:
If you are stranded in a remote area you may need to leave the car on foot after the blizzard passes.

Stay in the car.
Huh? Well, one or the other. Perhaps they mean: "Stay in the car during the blizzard so you won't get confused and lost in the storm and when the storm is over and you can see more than a short distance, you might have to trek out to find some help."

If the car is not running - still stick with it. It's shelter from the storm and body heat and a those hand/body warmers will probably help keep it warmer than the outside. Plus, it's generally easier to spot a car that it is a person. Put up a flag of bright material that sticks up above the snow. If you have sheets of plastic, you can use them to cover at least the passenger compartment to help add a layer of insulation (and an air gap?) Remember those newspapers from the NJ list? Use them as insulation to the windows and floor. A little duct tape might help you stick them in place. Bundle up and cuddle with your friends and family to share warmth. But keep shoveling out an escape path. The exercise will do you good.

Now, if you are one of those "adventurers" who decided that a backwoods lumber road in the mountains was a great place to try out your new FWD/AWD adventure mobile and you failed to take along stuff to keep you alive - welcome to the Darwin Awards.

If you have the other gear mentioned above, I would still suggest, however, that even if your new toy has a power winch, it's a good idea to have a manual "come along winch" in the vehicle. Make sure you get one that will handle the weight of your vehicle. Or those tree limbs knocked down by the snow that are blocking your road.

Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. Dana higgins10:02 AM

    I do know that they, David Higgins had checked the weather. The storm was unexpected