Monster winter storm: five ways to stay safe and prepared

Americans in 33 states from Oklahoma to Massachusetts are now dealing with a huge winter storm. Experts say these are five things you can do to cope:

3. Prepare for the worst

Hyungwon Kang/Reuters
A tractor trailer truck sits stranded on icy road during an evening snow storm in Washington Jan. 26.

If someone is going out in blizzard conditions or on icy roads, they have to be prepared for the unexpected.

Robert Weisman, a professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn., recalls driving in upstate New York after a storm. He thought of himself as a careful and skilled winter driver. But that did not mean other drivers were as skilled.

“I got stuck for 10 hours because two trucks jack-knifed,” he recalls.

To survive in a bad traffic situation, or perhaps just because you are forced to pull off the road, Mr. Weisman says its important to make sure the exhaust (tail pipe) is not blocked so lethal carbon monoxide does not back up into the car. He recommends running an engine only five minutes per hour at the most in a storm.

In addition, Weisman says it’s important to carry a basic survival kit: blankets, energy food, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a small pot with a lighter to burn firewood to melt snow for water.

Naturally, anyone traveling in snow and ice would also want a snow shovel and a bag of kitty litter to help get traction in case the car gets stuck. “If you get in trouble, stay with the car since it provides you with protection from the elements, and it’s easier to find a car,” says Mr. Van Tassel of AAA. “And, you should let someone know when you’re leaving so, if you don’t show up, they can notify the authorities.”

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