The winter storm that struck the East Coast last week is being called the “blizzard” of 2016. And while it was not that much snow by Western standards, it was far more that the region was accustomed to receiving. The average snowfall through the Mid-Atlantic region was about 2 feet, however the high winds and dry blowing snow created deep drifts everywhere. When driving in conditions like these, it’s not unheard of to crash into a snowbank or drift. And when this happens, you’re stuck in your car, surrounded by snow, and not going anywhere. This situation takes a worse turn when the vehicle cannot be seen, or it’s stuck in an untraveled area. Maybe it will take a day before you’re found, maybe a lot more. So what are you to do? Try to walk out or stay with the car? The good news is that your vehicle provides you with a form of shelter, albeit a cold one. And if you planned ahead by stocking your car for winter emergencies, then you should have plenty of gear to work with. Follow these steps and your odds of survival will only increase.

The first move in the right direction is to call for help. Most folks have a mobile phone on them these days, but you should take the extra step by keeping a car charger in the vehicle too. This charger could be the plug in kind, though it won’t work if the vehicle has a dead battery or a major electric breakdown. Self-contained recharging systems are often a safer bet. Solar chargers, battery pack chargers, and even hand crank devices can offer juice to your thirsty mobile phone.

If no help is coming, then bundle up for warmth and try to dig the vehicle out (if that looks possible). Make sure the vehicle is stocked with warm clothing and outerwear, as well as a shovel of some kind (a snow shovel is ideal, obviously).


If the “dig out” fails or isn’t possible in the first place, seek shelter in the car. High-energy food, water, and sleeping bags should be standard equipment for cold weather travel. Add a small bucket with a tight fitting lid, and some hygiene products, in case you’re stuck in the car so long that you need a bathroom. Run the engine for warmth, occasionally, but only if you can keep the exhaust clear. Vehicle exhaust can back up into the vehicle cabin when the exhaust pipe is buried in snow, slush, mud or water—leading to death from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Signal for help. Create some kind of signal outside the vehicle, so it can be spotted by passers-by. Tie something colorful to the antenna. Clear the snow off the vehicle roof so that it can be seen from the ground and the air. Use reflectors and similar devices hanging on sticks or poles around the vehicle for visibility. And never wander off from the vehicle to look for help. People that stay with the car generally make it, and those who don’t are often lost.

Is your vehicle ready to support you in a snowbound scenario? Please leave a comment to let us know what you carry in your vehicle in winter.

Photograph via Instagram