Winter weather in the Metro area can be mild some years, with little or no snow, and other years—blizzards. Sometimes even the slightest dusting of snow in very cold conditions can leave roads icy and dangerous. In any case, it bears some reminding that drivers need to be prepared for anything, including the possibility of being stuck on the road for hours.
When the weather gets treacherous, stay off the roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, stay inside. It’s not that expensive to outfit your car with practical items you’ll need to be safe in this scenario—most of them under $25. Take a look and see which items you need to round out your checklist.
- Hand Warmers—Even if you have gloves in your car, keep a stash of hand warmers in your emergency kit just in case you are stuck on the road and forced to turn your car off to preserve gas. It can get very cold pretty quick. A pair of extra gloves is also a good idea. You can find inexpensive hand warmers at convenience stores, big box stores, hardware stores, sporting goods stores and sometimes supermarkets.
- Emergency Escape Tool —One fear that nearly everyone has is being trapped in their car with no way out except to break a window. The DSYJ Emergency Escape Tool and similar tools are great emergency items with blades to cut seat belts, plus double hammer heads to break windows.
- First Aid Kit—It’s always a good idea to have simple first aid items stashed in your car for when you need a bandage or other quick-fix medical supplies.
- Folding Shovel—If your car gets stuck in the snow, you’ll be happy you have one of these in the trunk. In fact, some are so compact that they fold up to fit in your car’s glovebox.
- Kitty Litter, Sand or Salt—Any of these may help your car gain traction on icy roads and get you out of trouble and moving again.
- LED Road Flares—Reduced visibility from a snowstorm can leave you stranded in a ditch, snowbank or just plain stopped. Make sure other vehicles or emergency personnel can easily see your car by placing flares around it.
- Blankets—Always good to have blankets on hand year-round, but especially good in case you’re stranded in the cold. You may need to turn off your car periodically to preserve fuel, and you’ll be happy you have a good heavy blanket to help keep you warm.
- Snow Brush with Ice Scraper—Opt for the extendable kind or one with a long handle to push snow off your car. And if there’s ice? You’ll need that ice scraper to clear your windshield. Poor visibility can just magnify the snowy situation and makes for even more treacherous driving.
- Jumper Cables—You won’t get far if your battery is dead. Keep jumper cables in your car at all times to avoid this predicament. Or consider a portable battery charger, which allows you to charge your battery without the aid of another vehicle. (This may run you $50 – $100, but you’ll be happy you have it if your battery dies.)
- Extra Vehicle Fluids—Carry an extra gallon of de-icing and wiper fluids to avoid the dangerous situation of running out and having to drive with poor visibility.
- Flashlight—In the dark AND stranded? Not a good situation. A battery-operated flashlight is an all-season must-have for your vehicle. While it’s true that most smartphones have flashlights, it’s good to have a backup in case your phone dies or if you have to dig through your trunk looking for supplies.
- Water and Non-Perishable Snacks—Although it’s a rare occurrence, people DO get stuck in their cars for hours and even days during blizzards. Keep a stash of snacks (think beef jerky and granola bars) and water bottles in the car just in case. Even if your situation doesn’t even come close to a Dateline survival story, you’ll be more comfortable waiting for a tow truck or the roads to clear if you’re hydrated and have a snack.
- Extra Clothes, Boots & Socks—If you’re out in the snow trying to clear your car of snow or digging out to get moving, you’re going to get wet. Keep an extra pair of clothes, including socks and boots in your trunk so you can change and warm up to avoid the risk of hypothermia or frostbite.
We hope you’ll take this checklist and get some or all of the supplies listed. And if you should be unfortunate enough to be stuck or stranded, you’ll be grateful for those extra items in your car to tide you over. And for those of us who realize the car we have won’t survive another winter season, it might make sense to look for a newer model.
The car isn’t the only place where you need to prepare for winter weather. Ready.gov gives some tips on a wide variety of topics, including readying your home for snowstorms and extreme cold.
Resources: Thesimpledollar.com, Firestone Complete Auto Care, Wisebread.com