Equipping Yourself for Snowstorm Survival

If you live in an area where large amounts of snow can fall in a very short period of time, you might want to prepare yourself with some items that just might save your life, or at the very least make you a little more comfortable and warm.

I live in Buffalo, NY. Home of the chicken wing, some of the most barbaric football tailgaters in history, and giant snowstorms. In November 2014 a good chunk of Buffalo and its southern suburbs got buried under 7-plus feet of snow in a very short period of time. The streets and highways were filled with people in stranded cars for significant periods of time. At least 12 deaths were attributed to the storm including two instances where people were found dead in their cars:

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My particular career choice is one that is considered ‘essential’. That means when giant storms like this happen, I don’t get to take a snow day. I at least have to make an honest attempt to get where I need to be. That is why I own a 2016 Subaru STi and have a set of Nokian Hakkapelita R2 snow tires on it. That combination provides me with a pretty solid chance at being able to overcome most of what Mother Nature can throw at me.

But I am not stupid. I understand I have little ground clearance and when snow is falling at rates of over 12”/hour, plows can’t keep roads clear. As it gets worse, more and more cars get stuck and/or have accidents which means that plows are at a further disadvantage resulting in worse and worse roads until everything becomes impassable. When things are that bad, pretty much everything gets stuck.

My RX-8 stuck in the driveway last year, and that was after I shoveled it out! I should also note that I wasn’t even in the hardest-hit area. I was on the ‘edge’ of the storm.

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Now if you are in your car and become stuck and/or stranded, you have a few options. Hopefully at the very least you are able to get into a parking lot/side street/side of the road (So plows can get through). If you are near civilization, you can make the short trek to a store or a friendly neighbor who might offer you food and warmth (I do find these bad situations bring out the best in people). You can abandon your car and try to find your way home. Or you can call 911 or Triple-A and let them know you are stuck and wait it out. I’m not going to indicate what choices one should make in these situations, but I suggest you think about it and have a plan for what you will do.

Now at the bare minimum, you should carry some gloves, hat, and a small shovel with you in your car. You should also not let your fuel level drop below half a tank (Something I need to be better at). If you know a snowstorm is coming, fill your tank. Cars can idle for a long time and as long as it’s running, you should have heat and relative comfort. The gloves and the shovel are also important to keep at least one door free to open and keep the exhaust open so you don’t suffocate yourself.

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My magic sack of snow-preparedness!

Now since I know that more than likely I will have to be out in my car during these snowstorms, I have put together a pack with gear that should help me successfully endure a massive snowstorm whether I’m stranded or have to venture out on my own. Now while my pack is designed primarily for just me, I also carry some extra gear (more blankets and clothes) for my wife and kids as well for that rare instance that they get stuck with me in another pack. I used an Oakley Icon backpack and it’s filled to capacity. It weighs about 25lbs and I keep it secured in the back corner of my trunk ready for use.

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I keep the snow-pack bungeed away in the corner. The other stuff is work and family-related.

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Here’s a list of what it carries (The italics at the end are still things I need to buy):

  • -Medium weight blanket rolled up
  • -Reflective emergency blanket
  • -Underarmour upper and lower base-layers
  • -2 pairs of gloves and 2 extra hats
  • -Cold weather baklava balaclava (The comment section made me see my autocorrect mistake)
  • -Reflective yellow safety vest
  • -6 Glowsticks
  • -6 12-hour hand and feet warmers
  • -2 towstraps and bungees
  • -Safety whistle/compass/matches combo
  • -Leatherman and knife
  • -Lighter
  • -‘550 Cord (Paracord)
  • -Ducttape
  • -1st aid kit with Motrin, band aids, alcohol and iodine pads and quickclot
  • -Assorted candy that I stole from my kids Halloween stash
  • -4 packs of granola (3000 calories)
  • -64oz of water
  • -Toilet paper
  • -Small bottle of Jameson Whiskey
  • -Goggles
  • -An additional battery pack for my phone.
  • -Snowshoes
  • Update: Heavy socks.
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All this crap plus a few more things fit in my pack.

If I am alone and stranded I figure there is enough there to keep me warm, fed, and hydrated for 3-4 days with no issues. If I need to venture out, there is enough extra equipment that I can venture off on my own in pretty bad weather and still be comfortable and visible. Plus I have things that will let me at least make an attempt at surviving if I would get stuck out somewhere with no shelter. Not everything I carry is totally necessary, but many of the items can be used for lots of different things (i.e. duct tape and paracord).

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I should also add that I carry these things in my car or am wearing these things all the time and they might be other items that you might want to carry in your car if you don’t normally have them:

  • -Water-resistant, insulated boots
  • -Shovel
  • -A couple all weather mats (In case you have to kneel or lay on the ground to dig out)
  • -A good flashlight (I have a Streamlight Stinger DS-LED with me all the time)
  • -1-Gallon gas can

Hopefully you never get stranded out in a snowstorm. It’s a very scary situation that can become deadly if you underestimate it. The last bit of advice I have to give is that if you don’t have to go out during a storm, DON’T. Most areas initiate travel-bans and they put them in place for a reason. The less people on the roads means that there are less cars to get stuck, less people to rescue, and it allows the snow-plows and 1st responders to be able get their jobs done much faster.

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This doesn’t look like something you want to be in without any emergency gear (Photo courtesy of Truckers News)

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I hope that if you live in areas that are prone to massive snowstorms that you will take some of my advice and make sure you are equipped and have a plan to survive. Even if you aren’t in this type of area, know what potential disasters are prone to your area and try to prepare to handle it.

Stay safe out there and if you can help others, please do.

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