What to do if you are stuck in a car in winter weather, snow

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Hundreds of drivers were stranded Monday night in freezing temperatures after a crash involving six tractor-trailers on Interstate 95 in Virginia.

The crash happened Monday afternoon and there were no injuries, the Associated Press reported, but it brought traffic to a standstill. As the snow fell and accumulated, it became impossible for vehicles to move.

This left drivers stranded overnight, many without proper supplies, such as food, water, and blankets, to stay fed and warm.

It may seem like an abnormal event, and you might think that you would never be caught in a similar situation.

But North Carolinians may remember a similar incident in 2014, when snow fell rapidly throughout the Triangle, leaving drivers stranded in traffic for hours – and some immortalized in a viral photo.

It is therefore important to prepare yourself and your vehicle for such an event.

Here are some tips on how to prepare, including what to keep in your emergency kit, as well as what to do if you find yourself stranded in an emergency.

What to keep in an emergency kit

Many drivers on I-95 Monday said they didn’t have enough food, water or a warm blanket to get through the night comfortably. Have a Emergency kit in your car is a key step in avoiding a similar situation if you ever find yourself stranded.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation recommends all cars have a basic supply kit including:

Ice scraper

Snow brush

Additional wiper fluid

Additional antifreeze

Basic automotive tool kit including jumper cables and safety flares

NCDOT also recommends keeping the following items in your car in case you get stuck:

Flash light

First aid kit

  • The National Safety Council recommends including gauze, duct tape, bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, latex-free gloves, scissors, hydrocortisone, a thermometer, tweezers, and an instant cold compress.

Blanket

  • Winter clothing, such as gloves, hats, and scarves, can also help keep you warm.

Shovel

Sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter (to give your tires traction if you get stuck)

Non-perishable snacks

  • The National Security Council recommends energy snacks, such as unsalted nuts, dried fruits and hard candy.

Drink water

The National Safety Council recommends the following additional items for your kit:

A properly inflated spare tire, a wheel wrench and a tripod jack

Extra batteries (for your flashlight or other electronic devices)

Reflective triangles and brightly colored fabric (to make your vehicle more visible)

Compass

Reflective vest (in case you need to walk for help)

Car charger for your mobile phone

Fire extinguisher

Tape

Rain poncho

If you have pets and travel with them, be sure to include provisions for them in your kit as well. This may include:

Pet food

Additional drinking water

Additional blankets

Leash, collar and harness

The National Security Council also recommends keeping the family and emergency phone numbers, including your auto insurance provider and a towing company, into your phone.

What to do if you get stuck or stuck

If you’re stuck in snow or ice in North Carolina, try these tips from NCDOT and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to get you out:

Contact National highway patrol by dialing * HP (* 47) on your phone.

Don’t spin your wheels. It will only dig you deeper. Instead, turn your wheels side to side to help clear the snow, then turn the steering wheel so the tires are as straight as possible.

Use a shovel – remember, you should keep one in your vehicle’s emergency kit – for clearing snow in front of and behind your tires. You should also remove snow of the exhaust to prevent carbon monoxide buildup inside the car.

Spread non-clumping cat litter, sand or salt in cleared areas around your tires. This will help you gain traction. Remember that you should keep at least one of these items in your emergency kit.

If you are unable to unblock yourself using the above methods, you can try rock your vehicle back and forth. Shift from forward to reverse and vice versa by lightly pressing the accelerator pedal. Resist the temptation to spin your wheels. Warning: Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual first, as some transmissions in the vehicle could be damaged using this strategy.

If you are unable to pick up your car and think you might become failed, use these tips from The Weather Channel:

Make sure the external exhaust on the car is of snow to prevent carbon monoxide buildup in the car.

Stay in your car. Don’t go looking for help. You can become disoriented and lost in blowing snow and blowing snow. If you see a building near, it may be prudent to leave your car and take shelter there.

Switch off your car. Turn it on every now and then to warm it up, but if not, turn it off to save gas.

  • It is important to make sure you have at least one half gas tank before driving in winter. It will help you run your car and heat up for longer.

Check the exterior exhaust Everytime you turn on the heater to make sure the snow has not accumulated.

In addition to using the blanket or warm clothes from your emergency kit, you can stay warm by doing small exercises. Try short sets of kicks or push-ups.

Stay hydrated. If you don’t have water in your emergency kit or if you run out of water, you can melting snow to be used as water.

Keep your seat belt on and put your hazard lights. Even if you have stopped people can still hit you.

How to prepare your car for winter driving

Before you get stuck in snow and ice, there are ways to prepare your car for winter.

Ready.gov, a national public service campaign, also recommends that you regularly check the following features of your car, so that they are in good condition in an emergency:

Antifreeze Levels

Battery and ignition system

Brakes

Exhaust system

Fuel and air filters

Heater and defroster

Flashing lights and hazard warning lights

Oil

Thermostat

Windshield wiper equipment and washer fluid level

And remember: Before venturing into winter, always make sure you have at least one half gas tank and one full tank wiper fluid. Even short daily trips can turn into long trips in a thunderstorm, so you need to make sure you have enough gasoline for your entire trip, including to run your heater if you find yourself stranded.

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Korie Dean is a reporter on The News & Observer’s service journalism team. She graduated from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill and has always been a North Carolinian.


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