Saturday, February 9, 2013

What If You Are Stranded in a Blizzard?

In "Winter Storm Nemo," the blizzard of February 8-9, 2013, hundreds of motorists were stranded by deep and drifting snow on the Long Island Expressway.  The media reported* that for those stranded overnight, it was "cold and scary." In Massachusetts, National Guardsman rescued stranded motorists, some of whom had hypothermia and had to be taken to hospitals.

So it really happens: people get stranded in their car in blizzards.  What do you do if it happens to you?
  • Stay calm, help is coming.
  • Stay with the car. A car is more likely to be found; you are more likely to get lost,if you leave the car in the middle of a storm. 
  • Avoid overexertion and exposure. Stay in the car as much as possible. It should be obvious after only a few minutes whether or not you can dig your car out. Avoid working up a sweat. 
  • Only run the motor for short periods. A good rule of thumb is 10-15 minutes per hour, and only when you are awake. Make absolutely sure that snow has not blocked the exhaust pipe, and crack a downwind window for ventilation. During the blizzard, an 11-year-old in a running car succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning when the car's exhaust was blocked by a snow bank.
  • Open doors and windows occasionally to get fresh air and to keep them from freezing shut.
  • Get out and clear off the car once in a while so it looks like a car, and is more visible to rescue crews.
  • Exercise and stretch briefly, but vigorously, from time to time. Don't stay in one position too long.
  • Don't allow everyone to sleep at once. Someone should keep a watch.
  • Use emergency flashers sparingly to conserve the battery, but use them as a signal at night. You may have to get out and clear the snow so they can be seen.
  • Your car has many resources, especially if you put in emergency supplies. Be innovative. The horn can be an effective signal; use bursts of three, the universal distress signal. Be innovative in the use of car parts: a hubcap makes a crude snow scoop; seat insulation can be stripped out and stuffed into clothes; floor mats can be tied around feet; etc.


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