How to survive a winter breakdown
Guidelines to live by — seriously!
According to the Automobile Association of America, 5 million drivers will be stranded this holiday travel season. More than 800,000 of those will be stuck in ice or snow.
A few wrong decisions, a little bad luck and a forecast calling for snow — a recipe for disaster, if there ever was one. What starts as a routine holiday drive — over the river and through the woods to visit grandma — can quickly become a struggle for survival.
Consider the terrible case of former CNET senior editor James Kim and his family, who became stranded on a remote, unpaved logging road in the Pacific Northwest on Nov. 26, 2006. Driving home to San Francisco after spending Thanksgiving in Seattle, the Kims had missed a turnoff from Interstate 5 to Oregon Route 42, a main route to the Oregon coast. Instead of returning to the exit, they consulted a map and chose an alternative route through the Wild Rogue Wilderness, a remote area in the southwestern part of the state, and kept driving in the rain and snow after dark.
Lost, low on fuel and exhausted, the couple and their two daughters, Penelope and Sabine, stopped for the night. By morning, the family was snowbound in their Saab station wagon 20 miles from civilization, with no cell phone reception. A week later, searchers found Kati Kim and her two young daughters alive in the car. James Kim had set out on foot to get help two days earlier. His body was discovered Dec. 6 not far from the vehicle.
The plight of the Kim family may be an extreme situation, but the Automobile Association of America predicts that 5 million drivers will be stranded this holiday travel season, and that more than 800,000 of those will be stuck in ice or snow. And you don't need to be in the mountains to get into winter-driving peril. Just last year, a driver in rural Wisconsin died after he left the safety of his stranded car and tried to walk to a farm just a mile across a snowy field on a subzero night. He made just half the distance before succumbing to exposure.
Don't let this happen to you. To help, here are some guidelines to follow when stranded in the cold.
The easy way to avoid getting stranded on winter roads is to just stay home. And sometimes that's exactly the correct decision, says Howard Paul, a spokesman for the National Association of Search and Rescue, a nonprofit devoted to educating and training search and rescue personnel.
"With the Internet and today's cell phones, almost everyone has instant access to weather reports," says Paul, a 20-year veteran of search and rescue operations who lives in Denver and leads a team that covers three counties in Colorado's Front Range. "Often the best decision is just not to head out in the first place, or to turn around while you can. Too often people keep driving, thinking that certainly the road will get better, or the snow will let up soon. And 100 yards later, they are stuck."
Paul also cites an overreliance on 4-wheel drive, "which just gets you stuck further from the road," and on technology such as cell phones and GPS as factors causing drivers becoming lost and eventually stranded.
In January 2010, The Associated Press reported that Jeramie Griffin and his fiancée followed a GPS "shortest route" from their Willamette Valley, Ore., home across the Cascade Mountains, hoping to save 40 minutes on the trip. Following GPS, the couple became stuck on local roads, out of cell-service range and short on formula for their 11-month-old daughter. Three days later, all were rescued safely, but the incident left local law enforcement perplexed. It was the third time in a month that drivers had become stranded in the area while trusting navigation to GPS.
"You simply can't use GPS navigation without also looking at a map, especially in bad weather," Paul says. "In many parts of the country, there are roads that are only open seasonally and might not be plowed or patrolled in the winter. The GPS unit just sees a road. And if you only focus on the screen, you won't have a big-picture notion of where you are headed."
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as some one who has lived in remote mountains i ca n tell u this, dont forget
to keep a gun of some sort with you,not everyone who comes along is there
to help you, and u are obviously vulnerable in a stranded vehicle...people act
different when you are isolated,not everybody but some people.....
I am from a state that gets allot of snow and cold weather. First off, don't leave your car to walk back to safety. You have a better chance of rescue and survival staying put and with your vehicle(if you do leave stay on the road don't cross country or take shortcuts they are usually bad ideas, even worse ideas then leaving your vehicle).
The following is a list of a few things to keep in your car for these fun moments (this list by all means is NOT all inclusive but is a START feel free to add onto what I have forgotten): spare change of warm cloths(put wet cloths or rain gear on for work outside then change back to dry cloths when you get back into your car), a shovel (small enough to get under your car with, but bigger than a garden trowel), non perishable Food(preferably that does not need cooked), drinking water and small pan (you must put a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan before you attempt to melt snow over a fire or you potentially can ruin your pan), fire/ignition source for a fire (like earlier comment suggested burn your spare tire for heat and smoke signal) candles (they burn/last longer if cold so feel free to freeze them), gas from car or lighter fluid will be useful as well, flares (slow burning and a way to keep them higher than the accumulated snow), gun/firearm (not necessarily for hunting but to make noise with for rescue as after 1-2 days without water you will not be able to yell or make more than a hoarse whisper; if you don't like bullets bring blanks although bullets are multi-purpose, not much worse than seeing help but not able to communicate with them), mirror (for signaling), blankets (mylar/space blankets work best for warmth and visibility), basic medical kit and spare medications (not just for winter...), knife and a hatchet (for wood and cutting other things), string/rope and a tarp (for shelter, water collection, keeping dry, and many other uses), phone and charger, chains for tires (take them off before driving highway speeds or you will ruin your car), Basic tools and car necessities(electrical tape jumper cables pliers screwdrivers hammer etc.) Window defrost solution (beats having to scrape windshields, can defrost frozen doors, and is also flammable a great buy for $2-3) I know this list is missing quite a few items, but this is a start and will solve most minor issues. I often learn new things from replies so whether it is something i already know, or you think is obvious or not please feel free to reply or add onto the post.
If you find yourself getting frustrated or irrational a survival tip is to do something routine such as untying and tying your shoes or cleaning your gun as it helps your mind focus, brings in order clarity reason and logic and helps get back in touch with reality. (seriously this sounds odd but is proven and taught as a way to assist in getting/maintaining cognitive clarity in stressful situations)
Stay safe, be responsible, and try to prevent this type of situation through planning prevention and thinking ahead. Hope all of your travels are safe.
If we are actually planning a trip out into the wild we add to this. It all pretty much fits into a large rubbermaid tote. Conditions can change quickly up here and/or be very localized, so it is a good idea to always be prepared. We have a slightly modified kit for summer, leaving out the extreme cold weather gear, of course.
We always suggest everyone have something of this sort available, tailor it to your environment and your individual and family needs. And even if it doesn't go with you every day to work, if you're going more then 50 miles, you should take it, esp if there is a chance for the weather to turn.
Driving to visit my daughter studying in Ohio I missed the turn and found myself stuck on several inches of snow so, with the help of several highway workers, we tried and tried to move the car but to no avail....until I got an idea.
Instead of pushing the car that's floating on thick snow, I asked them to climb up the hood to increase the load so that the wheels can touch the hard surface of the road. It worked like a magic.