Snow can be both beautiful and deadly. Becoming lost and disoriented in a blizzard is easy to do. Growing up in Northern New York State, I was taught blizzard survival tips at home and school. New York is a beautiful state but the region I lived in gets an overwhelming amount of snow. My parents were wise to teach me how to survive a blizzard at an early age. Now I’m sharing that information with you. Let’s start at the beginning. What is the first rule of outdoor blizzard survival?
Don’t Go Outside in a Blizzard
This may seem like an obvious tip but it’s one that many have learned the hard way. Getting caught outside in blizzard conditions is no laughing matter. Even a simple trip to the mail box can cause you to become lost in drifting, blowing snow. In the old days, pioneers strung lines from the house to the barn so they could care for animals during snowstorms. These were literal life lines. Letting go meant certain death. Zero visibility means exactly that. Stay inside during a blizzard if at all possible. Check weather reports prior to leaving the house. It can save your life.
Encountering a Blizzard While Driving
Hopefully, if you live in colder climates, you have stocked your car with blizzard survival equipment. At the very least, this means a warm blanket, extra clothes, a shovel, food and water. A flashlight becomes a beacon of hope. Don’t risk driving if a blizzard hits. Pull over and wait out the storm. Run the heater for ten minutes per hour. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked. Crack a window to keep air fresh and cut down on carbon monoxide. Use your cell phone to notify someone of your exact location. If you have no cell phone, attach a red flag to the highest spot on your car antennae. This alerts searchers to your whereabouts so they can dig you out.
Encountering a Blizzard On Foot
If you are out for a walk and a blizzard strikes, your first thought should be to seek shelter. If you are in a city, don’t be shy. Your hesitation to knock on a neighbors door could cost you your life. If you are in the wilderness, the options will be fewer. Building a lean-to with fallen branches is one way to keep out of the wind. Another idea is to dig a snow cave. Staying dry is essential. Once you have shelter, try to find a source of heat or build a fire. Use rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat. Once the fire has gone out, the rocks can be used for warmth. Learn to start a fire without matches here.
Eating, Drinking and More in Blizzard Conditions
Eating snow is a bad idea. The snow will lower your body temperature. Instead, melt the snow over the fire or use your body heat, then drink the liquid. If you have food with you, ration it out in small portions over time. Do not remain completely still or in a cramped position. Low circulation lowers body temperature. Mental anxiety in a blizzard survival situation can cause stress related physical reactions such as heart attacks. Try your best to remain calm and occupy your mind with other things.
Attract Attention in a Blizzard
A flashlight, candle, flare or other source of light will help alert searchers to your location. Do not burn anything inside a completely enclosed shelter. This can cause carbon monoxide poisoning or a lack of air. If you have no source of light, tie a bright cloth to a stick and plunge it into the snow. Check frequently to see that the flag does not become buried. Call out for help often as well. Zero visibility in a blizzard may render your more silent signals useless. Outdoor blizzard survival means thinking beyond your everyday experience.