This past week a monster storm known as a bomb cyclone descended upon the central United States, hitting the state of Colorado particularly hard. Local news agencies said the storm brought blizzard and whiteout conditions along with winds equal to those of Category 2 Hurricanes. The Denver airport was shut down, as were schools, businesses and hospitals.
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, over 1,100 stranded drivers required rescue, and by mid-afternoon, El Dorado County Search and Rescue were experiencing a 600 call backlog. Despite numerous admonitions to stay off the roads, many went out and found themselves stuck in the snow. So, as a prepper, I can't help but take these stories and use them as a learning experience: I ask what would I do if I got stuck in this situation, what can I learn, and how may I take the opportunity to warn others, especially those new to preparedness and survival.
With regards to those caught in this situation, I must say, there was ample warning that the storm was looming; further, multiple warnings to stay off the road were issued. The first step in dealing with these situations is to avoid them. Arthur T. Bradley, preparedness expert, says the number one rule of survival is to “get out of the way.” As we know, however, this is not always possible. Recently a 30-vehicle pileup occurred on Interstate 80, not far from my home. Black ice conditions resulted in vehicles and their passengers being stuck for hours over night. It is also common for vehicles to slide off the roads and get stuck in the wintertime, and that is something you can't anticipate, but you can certainly plan for in the event it happens to you.
First, make sure you are never traveling with a tank that is not as close to full as possible; in the event you are stranded and need to stay warm, you will appreciate being able to use the heater. (Be sure to clear all snow or other obstructions from the exhaust pipe!)
Keep clothing available so you may stay warm, extra jackets, socks, a wool cap, hand and feet warmers, anything. Always consider what you will need to survive in the event you are not able to reach your destination – resist the temptation to just take what you need upon your arrival, as you may be spending some time in harsh conditions. Bring some boots as well as extra socks.
Consider a shovel so you may dig yourself out if you need to, as well as some kitty litter for added traction. If have you have a small vehicle, prioritize according to what your most likely scenario will be, given your location, weather conditions, etc.
Have a plan in case the structural integrity of your vehicle is compromised. A tarp and some duct tape may come in handy if you need to protect yourself from the elements if a window is broken, for instance. If you travel in an area where there is no or intermittent cell service, let someone know where you are traveling, and when to expect you. Have a time limit so if they don't hear for you, they can summon help.
In the event we just saw in Colorado, government agencies were overrun and could not rescue stranded motorists quickly. You may be stuck for hours or longer, so plan on a worst-case scenario. Always have food with you as well as plenty of water. Have a means by which to warn other vehicles of your location. I have some LED disc-shaped road flairs, and you can put them outside or even on your dashboard to alert others of your location and that you need assistance. They even have a flashlight feature. There are several products available for heating food safely in your vehicle, using your 12 volt outlet or even chemical reaction packets.
One item I have found that many people find amusing, but are VERY useful in the event you can't leave your vehicle is a “female urination device.” Go ahead and laugh, I'll wait. OK, now, as silly as this may seem, imagine if the situation is too perilous to leave your vehicle, or there are many people around and you want your privacy. These devices allow ladies to seek relief without making a mess or getting their clothing wet, or otherwise putting themselves in harm's way. Added benefit, if you use a water bottle for this process, use it then to help you stay warm, especially if you run out of hand/foot warmers, or don't have them.
Remember, also, the Denver airport was closed, so would you have what you needed in the event you were stranded there overnight? Think medication, hygiene, even food could become scarce. Bottom line, and I could go on with this topic forever, consider not just your destination, consider the environment and conditions through which you will be traveling, regardless of the means.
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to share your comments and advice as well!