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Blizzard Survival Tips: How to Prepare and What to Do If You're Stuck

Flickr/Vivienne Gucwa

Now has never been a better time to know how to survive a blizzard with these important survival tips.

The U.S. Northeast is continuing to deal with a crippling blizzard that is creating havoc for over 60 million people. If a blizzard struck today, though, would you know how to deal with one? Here we provide some vital blizzard survival tips and what you should do if you find yourself stuck in one.

Storm vs. Blizzard

The first thing to be aware of is to determine the difference between a winter storm watch and a blizzard warning. A winter storm watch will be issued when wintry conditions can be expected to take place within the next 12 to 48 hours. This is the time when you should start making preparations to safeguard yourself and your family members.

A blizzard watch can be upgraded to a blizzard warning when gusts of wind around 35 mph and snow fall drop visibility to less than a quarter of a mile for three hours or more. This is when you need to seek immediate shelter until it is safe to retreat.

flickr/inua blevins
Flickr/Inua Blevins

How to Prepare for a Blizzard

Before a blizzard takes place you should be prepared by having a kit ready for such emergencies already in place. Remember that during a blizzard it is very likely that heat, telephone services and electricity will be knocked out as you remain in your home for the next few days. Consequently, to make life easier you should have the following on hand in a designated place:

  • A fully charged cell phone
  • Battery-powered weather radio and a portable radio to receive emergency information
  • Flashlight and plenty of extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Extra food and bottled water
  • Non-perishable foods such as crackers, cereal, dried fruit, canned food or candy where cooking or refrigeration is not required
  • Over-the-counter remedies and prescription medicines
  • Diapers, baby wipes, formula and baby food
  • A hand held can opener
  • Toilet paper
  • Back-up heating source such as a fireplace, space heater or wood stove

You should also have the following located in your vehicle with a full tank of gas to stop the fuel line from freezing if you should become stranded:

  • A fully charged cell phone
  • Tool kit
  • Extra winter clothes and boots
  • Non-perishable food that is high in calories
  • Blankets/sleeping bags
  • Knife
  • Shovel
  • Fire-starting materials such as cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly, a coffee can, and emergency candles
  • Glow sticks
  • First aid kit
  • Tow rope
  • Water container
  • Jumper cables
  • Road maps
  • Compass
  • Windshield scraper
  • Brightly colored cloth or plastic strips
flickr/Darren Taylor
Flickr/Darren Taylor

What to Do If You Become Stranded in a Blizzard

Knowing how to survive a blizzard if you become stranded is a crucial bit of knowledge that everyone should be aware of.


Seek shelter immediately as blowing winds can drastically reduce your core body temperature to dangerous levels. The longer you are exposed to the cold weather the greater the risk of hypothermia and frostbite, so get somewhere warm where you can avoid the wind. To stay hydrated you need to drink plenty of water, but try not to eat the snow, instead gather it in a container and heat it against your body to melt it before drinking it.

In a Vehicle

When you realize that you have become stranded in a blizzard you should remain inside your vehicle unless there is an immediate danger to you if you do. This will provide a protective barrier for you against the cold. In your kit, take out the glow sticks and place them in the windows and place the brightly colored plastic strips or cloth to both sides of the windows to act as a distress signal. Take the time to quickly check that your exhaust pipe hasn't become blocked as any toxic fumes trapped inside will ultimately travel into the vehicle.

If you need to run the vehicle's engine, do so for a short time, around ten minutes every 45 minutes. This will stop the engine from getting too cold quickly and will give you some much needed warmth. Avoid running the engine for longer than ten minutes, however, as dangerous exhaust fumes, such as carbon monoxide, can build up. Open a window slightly to provide some fresh air and wrap any blankets around you to keep the heat trapped around your body for longer.

While a vehicle doesn't provide much room to move about you should still keep moving as much as you can. Simply stomping your feet and clapping your hands will help to keep the blood flowing. While it's never a good time to become stranded in a blizzard outside, you shouldn't let this allow negative thoughts to filter into your mind as this will hinder your ability to make smart decisions when the time calls for it.

Some people believe that they should start walking to seek help when they become stranded in a blizzard, but if you don't know how far away help is, walking away from your only source of protection is a dangerous thing to do. Instead, stay where you are and wait for help to find you.

If you are properly prepared you will quite easily be able to survive the harsh conditions that a blizzard will throw at you. The worst thing you can do is to panic and make a rash decision which could see you getting lost, becoming injured and succumbing to hypothermia.

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Blizzard Survival Tips: How to Prepare and What to Do If You're Stuck