You may not believe me when I tell you that the worst blizzards I have been in occurred in Virginia and Arizona. You may question me further knowing that I have lived and plowed snow in Colorado and the snowbelt region of New York state. I welcome the questions on these subjects as I hope that my experience saves you the anxiety of being unprepared for a blizzard. One way to avoid this is to have a winter emergency kit in your car.
Aside from the fact that I run three businesses out of my archaic 1971 Scout, many believe I live out of the vehicle when they observe a sleeping bag that stretches across the entire back portion behind the front seats. I’m quick to respond that the clutter includes the ability to ride out a blizzard while staying warm and fed. A big part of the survival is my emergency winter driving kit.
Any emergency kit should include last minute preparations such as a full tank of gas. Realize that a full tank of gas is your best friend as well as your worst enemy. By having a full tank of gas you can keep the car running and warm and the battery charged. By keeping the car running, you can get asphyxiated. Having a full tank of gas is only a tool for survival if properly used. When used improperly, it can spell a death sentence. The key is to have warm clothing and blankets available to ride out the storm thus reducing the need to run the heater. Realize every source of heat you have available right down to animals and other people. Run your heater as little as possible. Some blizzards last for days so conserve and plan for the long run.
It is said that people can survive five days without water and three days without food. Do you have three days of food in your car? If so, will it be edible? Think of long term foods such as nuts and those that don’t require refrigeration. Chocolate comes to mind too as it provides energy for alertness as well as burning hot to generate heat while digesting. Understand how different foods burn slowly and keep those that might help you survive a long, frigid night. Most of us in the mountains DON’T leave food in our car as it invites bears to rip the vehicle to pieces. Have a portable food cache that is available during the seasons when bears aren’t hibernating. In the Rockies, blizzards happen year round. The song “Ridin’ the Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon is based on a similar, near-death experience.
One piece of advice is to put faith in technology failing you. In this era of cell phones and Onstar, we feel protected in a way that can often be false or misleading. Technology requires power (in the form of charged batteries, grid power, and car voltage) and signals in the form of accessibility. If a storm knocks out the power or your fuel runs out and the batteries lose charge, technology becomes limited and even absent. Sliding into a ravine pretty much takes the last bit of signal that a canyon obscured in a remote region. Think in advance about what can go wrong and plan accordingly.
Having a prepared vehicle goes without saying. Having a kit that adds to the vehicle’s readiness is essential. Do you have chains with you? Many roads in the Rockies are restricted to those with chains and snow tires during a storm. Do you know how to put chains on? If you can’t do it in your garage you can’t do it while your car teeters on a mountainside and the wind pummels you with frigid air and blinding snow.
A final note on emergency kits is based on navigating the storm. Vision is the number one requirement. Make sure you have additional washer fluid. Keeping your old wipers could save your bacon in the event yours fail. In this case seeing isn’t only believing, seeing could mean surviving or arriving safely.