You and your family are driving home from a weekend up north at a friend’s cabin. You have spent the last couple of days enjoying all the activities winter brings: cross country skiing; snow shoeing; tobogganing and even a little skating. All too soon your mini vacation draws to and end and home beckons.
What started out as a cloudless night sky changes. Low, heavy clouds drop like a blanket and before too long, it’s snowing. Heavily. Soon the roads are covered in heavy, wet, accumulating snow. As hard as you try, it’s becoming much harder to see – anything. With the kids in the back seat, there’s no need to be a hero. Turning to your spouse you agree that you should pull off the road safely, at the next exit or side road and hunker down until the storm abates then passes.
While you present the situation to your family as an adventure, you know better. To get through the night, there are some specific dos and don’ts which must be followed.
First and foremost, do not leave the car to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 metres. You may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow.
Having said that, rummage through your bags and dig out a brightly coloured t-shirt, attach it to the vehicle’s antenna and raise the hood.
Turn on the car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater when the car is running. Also, turn on the car's dome light when the car is running. Do ensure that you keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Regularly check exposed extremities for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and as much as possible, do minor exercises to keep up circulation – including hand clapping, foot stomping – even arm stretches.
Huddle together for warmth and take turns sleeping. Wear extra clothes, even use pages from a newspaper or magazine as added insulation for warmth.
Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car during a lull in the weather can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of the symptoms of dehydration – another reason for those ubiquitous bottles of water before setting out.
Remain calm. Stay positive. Rest. The storm will pass and with assistance, you and the family will be on your way.