Winter Storm Warning! Surviving a Winter Storm Trapped Outside

Winter weather can go from beautiful to deadly in a matter of hours. Whether you’re on the road or in the wilderness on a winter camping trip, it’s important to know how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe when a winter storm warning is in effect and until the storm passes.

According to Farmers’ Almanac, the winter season for 2016-17 is expected to be much colder this year as opposed to last year.

Staying Safe If You Are Trapped Outside

car-in-snow-mirror-showing Winter Storm Warning! Surviving a Winter Storm Trapped Outside

Stay Inside Your Car or Tent During A Winter Storm Warning

When the snow starts piling up and it becomes clear that you’re stuck on the road or at your campsite, your best bet is to stay there. Venturing out in the snow increases the mortality rate in this type of survival situation. Since visibility is usually close to zero during heavy snowfall and the temperature/winds are unpredictable it’s not worth the risk. Hunker down and plan to wait out the storm.

If you’re with other people, do not send a person out for help. This is extremely risky and dangerous! It’s important to stay together until the storm has passed or you’re rescued.

If you’re stuck outside without a car or tent, it’s imperative that you find some sort of shelter. Seek out a cave or an overhang. You can also look for a tarp and other materials you can use to fashion a shelter. If all else fails, build a snow cave to serve as insulation.

tent-in-snow Winter Storm Warning! Surviving a Winter Storm Trapped Outside

Keep Warm and Dry

Keep the windows rolled up or the tent flap closed while you’re inside. Wrap your coat, blanket, tarp, or any other type of material you have with you around your body to stay warm and to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. A buddy system is always a good idea in winter weather so if you’re with another person, use each other’s body heat by huddling together.

If you’re out in the wilderness, build a fire close by to keep warm and to serve as a signal for rescue.

If you’re in the car, let the engine run with the heat on to stay warm. However, it’s very important that you don’t keep the engine running. If the exhaust pipe clogs with snow as this could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which is deadly!

water-in-thermos Winter Storm Warning! Surviving a Winter Storm Trapped Outside

Stay Hydrated

This is a very important way to keep your body healthy while you’re trapped. If you don’t have a water supply, stay hydrated by melting snow and drinking it. Put some in a container and melt it using the fire you built or by utilizing your car’s heater.

Do not eat snow as this is harmful to the body. Eating snow will lower your core body temperature which can lead to hypothermia. Melt the snow and drink it instead. If you have food, ration it to make it last over several days. Eat small amounts at a time.

Determine What To Do When The Storm Is Over

compass-in-winter Winter Storm Warning! Surviving a Winter Storm Trapped Outside

When the winter storm warning is over, snowfall ends and the sun comes back out, your physical state will help you determine what comes next. You may be able to dig your way out of your car or tent/shelter. If that seems impossible, wait for help to arrive. A situation such as this is why it is so important to always carry a small shovel inside your vehicle; especially in the winter months!

If you’re on a road, you can be fairly sure help will come soon. People have survived for over a week waiting for help in the car, so sit tight.

If you’re in the wilderness and are afraid no one will find you, you may have to hike to safety on your own. Get your bearings and set out in the direction of civilization. A situation such as this is why you should always carry a compass and a map. If you have been trapped for a few days (or longer), chances are your cell phone is dead – which means no access to Google Maps.

Seek Medical Treatment If Necessary

If you or someone in your group becomes hypothermic, remove cold, wet clothes immediately and put on dry clothes. For complete information on the signs and medical care for hypothermia check out my previous article, Surviving Hypothermia: What To Do Until Medical Help Arrives.

Do you have a winter storm warning tip you would like to share? Tell us in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!

Stay warm and be prepared with these essentials:

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Winter Storm Warning! Surviving a Winter Storm Trapped Outside

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