How do you drive in blizzard conditions?

You don’t!

You should have all your severe storm preparations completed at least 24 hours before the snow hits the area.

For those who procrastinate, it may be too late. Supplies at the stores will be minimized, fuel probably scarce. My advice – stay put! But, for those who just have to travel for one reason or another, I have a bit of advice for you.

First – other than your Facebook buddies – your “new” best friend is going to be your emergency roadside kit. If you get stuck in a traffic jam or snow drift, this is what is going to see you through the storm. Most of these items you can find in your garage or basement. Gather these items into a box or duffle bag and place it into your trunk or backseat.

  • Extra cell phone battery or power cord adaptor (keep your cell phone on…
  • Paper towels
  • Half dozen cloth towels
  • Sealed snacks (like crackers, peanut butter)
  • First aid kit
  • Clear painter’s tarp
  • A couple of bungee cords
  • Thermal blanket
  • Duct tape
  • Shovel
  • 2, 10lb bags of sand, potting soil or (clean) kitty litter
  • Deck of playing cards
  • Magazine or two
  • Flashlight
  • Extra car key (if possible)
  • Screwdriver, pair of pliers
  • Favorite short stories book
  • Red cloth or clothing to mark your vehicle (if you get stuck)

If your vehicle has a “service engine soon” message or a check engine light illuminated on the dash – don’t drive it. The vehicle has issues and taking it out in severe cold is just going to be the catalysis that it needs to push it over the edge. And, I can guarantee you, your favorite tow truck will not be available for hours, if not days, depending upon how severe the storm and the devastation that it leaves in its wake.  You need to have a very reliable, well maintained vehicle with great tire tread before thinking about road travel…with a full tank of fuel. Nothing less.

Here are a few other tips that will save you time, possibly save your life

  1. Check with local authorities, news media on road conditions. Travel on approved roadways, only. Do not take unfamiliar short cuts to try to avoid traffic. When you get stuck, you want emergency personnel to know that you are there.
  2. Leave a note on your kitchen table. Tell everyone where you are going to and the roads you plan to take to get there. The date and time you left would be an additional help to authorities if they need to locate you for whatever reason.
  3. Use the buddy system. Contact someone you know that is reliable and that will be staying home. Call them just before you leave. Tell them where you are going and what time to expect a call from you when you arrive at your destination.  No call, your designated buddy can contact authorities and let them know how long you have been gone and your destination.
  4. Trust your gut! If you feel uneasy to be driving in severe weather conditions – don’t go! If the occasion arises while driving that you need to take action, you may be too apprehensive to do so. This could lead to a disaster. We don’t want that.
  5. Use your headlights – even during the day. And, I am not talking about daytime running lights. Remember, this is a blizzard and you want to see and be seen!
  6. Make sure those windows are clear of snow – just not the windshield. You want to be able to see 360 degrees around the vehicle.
  7. And, while we are on the subject of windshields…check the wiper blades. Make sure that they are going to get you through the drive. If the wiper blades are not in great working order, stay home! You need to see to drive. Without wiper blades, you can’t see, therefore you cannot drive.
  8. Two words: drive slow. You need to take extra time, extra caution to get to your destination in severe weather.
  9. If you lose traction, turn the steering wheel into the direction you want to go to. Downshifting to second or first gear, while driving in these conditions, is another great way to control a vehicle out of control. Remember:  do not hit the brake pedal in panic. This will only make your situation worse.
  10. Try to drive in the tire tracks made by the vehicle in front of you. Use their path to help your vehicle out
  11. Don’t follow too close to the vehicle in front of you. If you get into conditions that you cannot see, it is time to find shelter in a building. The inability to not see is number one accident candidate. And the last thing you want to do is get into an accident and damage your only means of transportation. Because, wherever it happens…that’s where you are trapped!

And if you get stuck?

First, call your buddy and let them know what’s going on and where you are located. They can take over the tow truck duties from this point. You have another job to do: bunker down. It may be a long, long wait.
While we are at it, let’s revisit your cell phone use. In a nutshell, use the phone sparingly. And do not leave the cell charger plugged into your car! This will deplete an already, cold-stressed vehicle battery.

For example: you know how leaving appliances plugged into the wall at home drains energy and increase your electrical bill? Same goes for anything plugged into your car or truck. Save the energy, save the battery.

Speaking of batteries, we want you to start your vehicle every 30 minutes and let it run for approximately 10 minutes. Before doing so make sure that the tail pipe is free and clear of snow. If not, the hydrocarbons will need somewhere to and that will be the vehicle’s cabin. As a safety precaution – and I know that it’s cold – crack the window down an inch while the engine is running to prevent possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Remember: vehicle emissions are mainly odorless and colorless. You’ll never know what hit you.

About The Author

Pam Oakes is a shop owner, ASE-certified technician, automotive author, automotive speaker, and syndicated radio host of “Car Care for the Clueless” on CBS Radio, CoachMeRadio, and AOL Radio -- LIVE@5 p.m. every Friday. And, yes, she still “turns wrenches.”

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