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Winter

  • Winter Survival on the Side of the Road

    5-miles-from-the-north-rim-via-stephen-krieg-photographics Winter Survival 45 miles from the North Rim - Photo via Stephen Krieg Photographics

    A sheriff’s official called it a “Christmas miracle.” On December 23 and 24, rescuers found a family that got stuck and then separated while trying to drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which was closed for the winter.

    The Klein family, of New Jersey, did some winter survival things well to survive their adventure, according to news coverage. They also made some mistakes that could have caused a tragic ending.

    The Kleins were willing to take an alternate route to get to their destination on December 22 when the primary route was closed. That, and the way father Eric Klein and 10-year-old son Isaac spent the night in the car, suggests they had enough fuel in the vehicle.

    “Never let your gas tank get below half,” said AAA Utah spokesperson Rolayne Fairclough. “In winter weather, if you’re detoured, you’ll have some flexibility, and you don’t have to worry about running out of gas.”

    The Forest Service road on which the Klein family got stuck didn’t have cell coverage. So the family agreed to have mother Karen Klein, a marathoner and triathlete who’d had some survival training, walk to the main road and get help. A few hours after she didn’t return, Eric walked the other way and found a high spot with enough cell coverage to call for help. That suggests they kept a cell phone charged.

    “Have a cell phone charger system so you have communications,” Fairclough said.

    “Don’t fail to signal for help, often and vigorously. Fire, smoke, and mirrors are good signals. Having a charged cell phone is a better one. Time is precious in a survival ordeal, so use it wisely to provide for your basic needs and be sure to signal at every opportunity,” wrote Tim MacWelch, a survival instructor, in a story for Outdoor Life.

    Karen Klein told “Good Morning America” she put snow in her cheek to keep hydrated.  At least she didn’t swallow it frozen.

    “Don’t eat ice or snow,” MacWelch warned. It can cause hypothermia. MacWelch suggested filling a bottle with snow or ice and putting it close to, but not next to, your skin, so body heat can melt it.

    Karen also stayed awake.

    "I just talked to myself and rocked back to stay warm," she told reporters.

    Car Stuck in Snow off a Road Winter SurvivalEven if you’re in a car, stay awake, especially when the engine is running, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

    If you run the car engine, only run it 15 minutes every hour and keep the tailpipe clear of snow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, keep windows cracked to avoid running out of oxygen.

    Karen Klein admitted they could have avoided this ordeal if they’d planned better.

    "As far as places being closed, we just didn't realize that these roads were closed and these visitor centers were closed," she told NBC News. "We didn't investigate that deeply."

    The main road to the North Rim, State Route 67, was closed.

    "Google Maps shows there's a way -- but it's impassable," Jim Driscoll, chief deputy for Coconino County, told the Associated Press, adding, "This is a problem we've had numerous times."

    During winter travel, stay on main roads, urges Ready.gov.

    “Avoid back road shortcuts,” the site urges. Tell someone where you’re going, your route, and expected arrival time.

    “If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route,” Ready.gov said.

    Stay near your car Winter Survival

    When you’re stranded, stay close to your vehicle. The North Dakota Department of Transportation even suggests if you need to leave your vehicle, tie yourself to it with rope.

    Karen told NBC News she set out with only Cheerios to eat.

    Make sure you’ve got an emergency kit, Fairclough said.

    Keep cold weather gear like blankets or a sleeping bag, boots, a coat and gloves in the car, she said. Aluminum “space blankets” can fit in a glove compartment.

    Bring a power source for cell phones, a radio and a flashlight with extra batteries.

    Believe it or not, a candle can heat a whole car’s cabin, she said. Keep matches too, because extreme cold can freeze some lighters.

    Add water and high-energy food like candy, raisins, nuts, dehydrated and freeze-dried fruit, and jerky. Remember toilet paper.

    Finally, take tools and equipment for the car: signaling equipment like bright cloth or flares, chains, booster cables, a nylon rope and a shovel, sand or kitty litter for traction.

    In a pinch, you can use the car’s floor mats for traction, Fairclough said.

    “A lot of people just don’t put a shovel in their cars,” she admitted.

    The Kleins’ trip could have ended in disaster. Coconino County, Ariz., Sheriff Jim Driscoll told the Los Angeles Times that in the last month, three people in the county died from exposure.

    The family did some things right, and emergency responders from many agencies responded quickly. They survived. But their errors could have cost them their lives.

    “It can be a pretty hostile environment,” Driscoll told the Times.

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 Winter Survival

  • Trapped in Traffic: Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving

    For Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law, his wife, and a few cousins drove from Utah to California to visit family for the holiday. As they were driving back to Utah the following Sunday, the weather turned sour. It wasn’t snowing heavily – just light rain and sleet, according to my brother-in-law – but that didn’t stop a wreck from happening 80 miles away from their home.

    winter-traffic winter drivingFortunately they weren't involved, but traffic was at a standstill. They would later discover that a semi-truck had jackknifed on the freeway, blocking all lanes. My brother-in-law took a side road – along with everyone else on the freeway – in order to get around the accident. As it turned out, traffic slowed to a crawl – and then full on stop – on that road as well. They moved six miles in an hour and a half. It was 8:00 at night, and they had work and school the next day.

    Later, they learned what had caused the stoppage on the access road – another semi-truck had jackknifed.

    Such experiences can be very frustrating. Fortunately, they all made it back safe and sound. The only casualty was a bit of sanity and some much needed sleep. But they’re alright, and that’s what matters.

    Winter has arrived here in Utah, and if it hasn’t arrived for you yet, it could very soon.

    We talk a lot about preparing your home and food storage for emergencies and disasters (which also includes winter), but today we’d like to help you get your car ready for winter driving conditions.

    First off, how’s your car’s emergency kit? Just like in your home, your car should be prepared with the essentials, just in case you slide off the road or are otherwise stranded in the cold. Ready.gov has a list of necessary items for your car’s kit. Some of those include the following:

     

    • Shovel
    • Windshield scraper
    • Flashlight
    • Water
    • Snack food
    • Blankets and warm clothing
    • Road salt/sand
    • Booster cables

     

    These are some of the basic necessities that need to go with you wherever you travel throughout the winter. Of course, you may have special circumstances and needs which you should prepare for as well, such as medications, pet supplies, or other such items.

    Thinking back on the experience of my brother-in-law, what might have happened if they had things not worked out for them? My first thought is gas.

    What would their trip home have been like if their gas tank had been low going into that traffic jam? During a chilly winter night, they could have been stuck without heat. Blankets, hats, mittens, and other warm clothing would have been a very welcomed resource in that situation. Fortunately, their gas tank was full enough until they could reach the next town (the towns are spread out quite far in the area in which they were stuck, so things could have been a lot worse).

    winter driving

    If they had been stuck on the road, snacks and water would not only do wonders for their morale, but help keep them hydrated, alert, and functioning properly in the event they needed more than just corn ships. Flashlights would have been useful in checking under the hood in case of car trouble (or having light by which passengers could read while they wait). A traffic jam is one thing. Sliding off the road in the middle of nowhere and having to wait for help to arrive would certainly require an emergency stash of gear.

    And the list goes on.

    You see, we never can plan for disasters (including two jackknifed trucks blocking two roads on one trip). That’s why it’s so important to have emergency gear and supplies in your car. The example scenarios above are only meant to give a hint of what could have been – the possibilities of what could have happened are many.

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 winter driving

  • Winter Has Arrived: 4 Ways to Prepare for the Next Storm

    On November 17, 2016, Utah experienced its first snow storm of the year. Sure, it mostly just accumulated on the grass because the roads were too warm. But there was snow!

     

    The winter weather that Utah experienced was the tail end of a larger storm passing over the Northern Plains. Utah was only under a winter weather advisory, but parts of Minnesota and South Dakota faced a Blizzard warning. On November 18, 2016, however, Winter Storm Argos continued to blow powerful winds and dumped over a foot of snow as it made its way through South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

     

     

    Winter, it would seem, has finally arrived.

    While the snow may still melt, we can take this as a warning that more winter storms will be coming along. That means it’s high time to get out your winter gear. But what, exactly, should you be prepared with?

     

    1. Warmth

    One of the biggest threats winter weather brings is cold temperatures. Fortunately, with a little planning, this can be countered rather easily. If you’re in your home, you most likely have access to warm clothing, blankets, and perhaps even a generator and heat lamp to counter any power outages.

    mr-heater-lifestyle-image-ck-h800 Winter Storm ArgosBut if there is a power outage, there are still ways to get extra heat, even without a generator.

    Portable propane heaters provide reliable heat that that are even safe to use indoors. This image shows off the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy connected to a propane tank. But you don’t necessarily need a tank that large. Instead, smaller one-pound propane cylinders provide up to 6 hours of heat.

    Hand and body warmers are a smaller, more space-friendly alternative to larger heaters. Once activated, they produce heat for up to 18 hours. These are ideal for your car’s emergency kit, since they don’t take up much space but can help keep you warm while you wait for assistance should a patch of ice force you off the road. (Of course, keeping blankets, gloves, and hats in your car is also a good idea during the winter months.)

     

    1. Shelter

    Shelter plays a big role in keeping warm, and it will also keep you out of the elements, including snow and wind. Shelter could range from your home, a tent, or even just a tarp. In fact, your car can transform into a warm shelter by lining the interior with reflective blankets. That way, your body heat will be trapped inside. It would take a number of blankets, but the idea still shows that anywhere can be warm if you’re prepared.

     

    1. Food and Water

    Ice Storm (CNN) Winter Storm ArgosWinter storms can dump huge amounts of snow and leave the roads slicker than an ice rink. When this happens, there’s a good chance you could be trapped in your home. We posted an article back in May, 2015 about how one family from Kentucky was trapped inside their home for a couple of days because of a storm that knocked out power and iced the roads. They were stuck indoors, wrapped in blankets, and cooked with a portable propane stove.

    Whenever a huge storm of any kind is expected, grocery stores run low on the essentials, including bread, eggs, and milk. But if you have food already stored, you won’t have to rush to the store only to find empty shelves. Likewise, having extra water stored can help in a pinch if your water pipes freeze over or water is otherwise unavailable.

    Once you have food and water, you will still need an alternate method to cook, just in case. In the example above, the family couldn’t use their stove or oven because it ran on electricity. Fortunately, they had a way to cook. Many people, when the power goes out, will not. Your alternate cooking options range from small gas powered stoves to flameless cookers. Small cookers don’t take up much space, making them ideal for emergencies (and camping and hiking, too!).

     

    1. Lighting

    Flashlight Reading Winter Storm ArgosThe thing about winter is, it gets dark so early! Many places in the country will need to turn on the lights even at 5:00 in the evening. If the power goes out, you’ll most certainly want some extra light sources. Flashlights are always a good option, but the can become a nuisance if you have to hold on to it for hours on end while you get things done around the house.

    One option is a flashlight that charges in a base that plugs into a wall outlet. As soon as the power goes out, the base lights up, not only illumining the room, but also helping you find your flashlight so you can reach the rest of your prep in other darkened rooms. Lanterns are also a good option, since they provide light while standing or hanging on their own.

     

    Of course, books and board games are also necessary when you’re trapped at home, and anything else you and your family would enjoy (like snacks and blanket forts). But before the next storm comes, make sure you’re prepared with these basic necessities to see you though cold days and even colder nights.

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 Winter Storm Argos

     

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