For single copies of this and other North Central Regional Publications, write to: Publications Office, Cooperative Extension Service, in care of the university listed above for your state.

If you live outside the North Central Region, write to any of the above universities for single copies. For quantities of any regional publication or general information, write to: NCR Educational Materials Project, 111 N Curtiss Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011.

North Central Regional Extension Publications are prepared as a part of the Cooperative Extension activities of the 12 North Central State land grant universities in cooperation with the Science and Education Administration-U.S.D.A. The following states cooperated in making this publication available.

North Dakota
South Dakota

Stalled....but Safe

Only the worst of forecasts keeps many people home during the wintertime. And, fortunately, just about everyone makes the trip safely. However, travelers can be stranded temporarily, and sometimes uncomfortably, for several hours or several days as a blizzard rages its way across the state. Occasionally the storm takes its toll, and reports of deaths hit the headlines.

Traveling without planning and being prepared for bad weather can be hazardous. If car trouble develops or an emergency is encountered, travelers may not be able to survive an extended period of time without shelter, food and clothing.

Low temperatures cause many problems. The wind aggravates the effects of the cold as it lowers the skin temperature even more. For instance, the wind chill indicates an effective temperature of -600 on the exposed flesh at -201 if the wind is 15 mph.


The National Weather Service issues watches and warnings for hazardous winter weather events.

Winter Storm Watch-Severe winter weather conditions may affect your area.

Winter Storm Warning-Severe winter weather conditions are imminent.

Ice Storm Warning-Significant, possibly damaging, ice accumulations expected. Freezing rain (or drizzle) means precipitation is expected to freeze when it hits exposed surfaces.
15 m.p.h.
30 m.p.h.
40 m.p.h.
*Wind speeds greater than 40 m.p.h. have little additional chilling effect.

Heavy Snow Warning-A snowfall of at least 4 inches in 12 hours or 6 inches in 24 hours is expected. (Heavy snow can mean lesser amounts where winter storms are infrequent.)

Blizzard Warning-Considerable falling and/or blowing snow and winds of at least 35 miles per hour, are expected for several hours.

Severe Blizzard Warning-Considerable falling and/or blowing snow, winds of at least 45 miles per hour, and temperatures 10 degrees F or lower are expected for several hours.

High Wind Warning-Winds of at least 40 miles per hour are expected to last for at least 1 hour. (In some areas, this means strong, gusty winds occurring in shorter time periods.)

Taking precautions when bad weather is predicted is only common sense. Postpone unnecessary trips, plan carefully if you must travel. Delay your trip enroute, stay secure in a town along the way if necessary.


Obtain weather and road reports from your local law enforcement office or a radio or TV station which receives hourly weather and road reports, or call one of the numbers listed on page 10.

Tell someone your plans, route, destination and time of arrival.


Winter driving puts added strain on cars and drivers alike. Well-equipped and winterized, your car will take you safely to your destination, and, in the event of an emergency, provide you with lifesaving shelter and provisions. The following tips may help you get your car in shape for winter driving: There is little difference between regular tires and snow tires in stopping distance. Tire chains cut that distance in half, however. Other products are available as traction aids such as strap-on tire chains, spray-on traction improvers, plastic traction treads, etc. These items work with varying results. Experiment before you rely on them. Extra weight is often added over the drive wheels for extra traction in the winter. Remember that overloading will affect the vehicle's handling and make it prone to skidding around corners because of the extra weight in the rear. A guide to follow is: Add 75 pounds to subcompacts, 100 pounds to compacts or intermediates, and 150 pounds to large cars.

A common fallacy is that lowering tire pressure gives added traction. This is true if you are mired in deep snow, but reduced tire pressure will actually reduce traction at any speed faster than a crawl. Lowering tire pressure speeds up tire wear, affects ride, braking and cornering- ability.


Items to carry in your car for winter driving: good spare tire, tire chains, shovel, container of sand, booster cables, fire extinguisher, windshield scraper, tow rope or chain, gasoline antifreeze, windshield cleaner, flares, flashlight, batteries, tools (pliers, screwdriver, adjustable wrench, pocket knife), sunglasses, bright red or orange cloth, 50 foot nylon cord and plastic whistle.
Figure 1.  Several items that can get you out of many "stalled" situations. Figure 2. A usefull assortment of items for winter driving


Once your car is tuned up and prepared for winter, knowing a few driving techniques can keep you out of many stalled situations.

Start out with a full tank of gas. When driving in winter, allow extra time and drive SMOOTHLY AND GENTLY. Sudden acceleration can send your car into a skid, and remember: it takes from three to 12 times as much distance to stop on snow and ice as on dry pavement. Even tire chains require four times as much braking distance on glare ice as regular tires on dry pavement. Should you go into a skid. let off the accelerator and steer in the direction of the skid, steer back as the rear of the car lines up with the front. The National Safety Council recommends braking with a fairly slow, intermittent action, fully on to fully off. This lets all brakes release and wheels roll, maintaining steering control.

If you should get stuck, you can often rock the car back and forth by shifting between reverse and forward at the end of each run and free the car. Avoid spinning the wheels excessively, as you will dig the car own and turn the surface into glare ice; use momentum instead. Be careful when rocking a car back and forth as you can ruin the transmission by doing so for more than a few minutes.


Smaller cars are both better and worse than full size cars for winter driving. Tests conducted by the National Safety Council revealed that small cars have some advantage over larger cars when stopping on glare ice, but do not have as much starting traction. Many small cars now have front wheel drive, and they show a distinct advantage over rear wheel drive cars in traction and braking.


The only time you should dare venture away from your vehicle is after the storm has subsided and you can easily see an occupied farmhouse. your sense of direction is almost immediately lost in blowing snow and a white-out situation. People tend to walk in circles when disoriented.

Soft snow is one of the hardest terrains to cross. Over 4 inches (10 cm) of snow causes the person to assume an unnatural bent-over position and lifting feet becomes more difficult with each step. Exhaustion quickly sets in, and with the coldness, the body cannot expend enough energy both to restore strength and provide heat. The distance you easily cover on a good day is very likely impossible after a storm.

Stay in your vehicle to conserve all of the energy you have for keeping warm and as comfortable as possible. Better to be rescued all in one piece rather than with frozen limbs or found too late fallen in the snow, a victim of hypothermia.


Hypothermia has often been called "The Killer of the Unprepared." It is also the number one killer of many outdoor sports enthusiasts.

Hypothermia is a condition where the body temperature, or core temperature, is lowered. The blood is cooled, reducing the oxygen carried to the brain and dulling the senses. The victim becomes fatigued, delirious, and loses dexterity of arms and legs. If the body's core temperature continues to drop, at about 85 degrees F, the victim eventually slips into unconsciousness. If treatment is not started immediately, the end result is arrest of the circulatory and respiratory systems and death.

The best way to prevent hypothermia is to stay warm and dry with the proper combination of preparation, clothing, food and exercise. Refer to these sections for more information.

Symptoms of hypothermia are fairly easy to identify and treatment is very often effective. Shivering, especially uncontrollable shivering, is one of the most obvious, early signs of hypothermia. As the situation continues to worsen, these symptoms start: clumsiness, loss of dexterity, loss of reasoning and recall, shaking, muscular rigidity and if the process is not reversed through treatment, death will follow. Symptoms are very difficult to diagnose on yourself, however, because of delerium and the loss of ability to think clearly.

Treatment of hypothermia consists of several general rules:

Persons trapped in a blizzard should sleep with caution. You have a lower metabolic rate when you are sleeping, therefore you produce less heat. Some sleep is necessary, but do not remain idle and sleeping for long periods of time. Stretch and exercise periodically. Eating before sleep will insure your metabolism keeps going. Avoid medications which may induce sleep.


Clothing and bedding cuts down on body heat loss, enabling your body to maintain a comfortable safe temperature. There are several ways to slow down heat loss.

By staying in your vehicle you'll cut down completely on the wind chill factor; there is no wind to blow away your body heat, thus a reduced possibility of hypothermia. The insulating layers of clothing and bedding trap air in the spaces between the fibers and between fabrics. Therefore, several loose layers will be warmer than one thick layer. Wear two pairs of mittens instead of gloves and three pairs of socks to keep these extremities warm. Don't squeeze heavy socks into tight boots lest your feet chill quickly. Loosely fitted bunny, moon or snowmobile boots with felt liners are good choices.

Figure 3.  If stalled in a blizzard you'll find warm clothing and a sleeping bag the most welcome items you brought along.

You'll need to stay dry to stay warm. Heat is lost when you perspire. When you get extra warm open the neckline to vent warm air and to cool down. Replace damp socks to keep your feet warm and dry. Likewise, replace clothes which have gotten wet from sleet or snow. Wet clothes are cold clothes. A large plastic bag makes a substitute waterproof covering if you need to venture out.

Plan to sit on and against some insulation Eke a closed- cell foam pad, wooly real or fake sheepskin, a blanket, space sheet or a pile of newspapers. Put a pile of newspapers under your feet, too.


LAYER ONE - Long underwear, choose cotton-lined wools or blends, or mesh. All cotton underwear is less warm. Wear one pair of cotton undersocks under two pair of wool socks.

LAYER TWO - Long sleeved turtle neck sweater or wool shirt and a coat or V neck sweater and wool pants.

LAYER THREE - Water and wind repellent (not water- proof) fiberfill, downfill or other insulated jacket (parka) with alternating quilt stitching and insulated pants, or insulated coverall or snowmobile suit. Your top should have a hood (snorkel type preferred). A long coat is warmer than a car coat. A two-piece, bib-type snowmobile set is warmer than an all-in-one. Sleeves can cover your hands for another layer. Other good features are high necks that button snug under the chin, raglan sleeves for easy fit, storm flap over buttons or zip closure, hand pockets and a belt.

LAYER FOUR - Sleeping bag designed for winter use. "Summer" and "Boy Scout" types do not have the heavy insulation you'll want. They will be better than nothing, however. Read the labels carefully and note the differences. Several blankets per person are another option.

As the heat loss from your head and neck is considerable-50-110 percent of the total depending on the temperature-wearing a cap or hat makes sense. The body takes blood from the arms and legs to keep the head, neck and torso warmer.

So, put on a hat to keep your hands and feet warm! With a warm head, the body can direct more blood to the extremities. A knit cap is comfortable-a balaclava rolled up is a good choice as you can roll it down over your face when you need to go outside the vehicle. Have a separate hood if your jacket doesn't have one. A warm wooly scarf keeps your neck warm and can be used to cover the face when necessary.

Sunglasses are needed to protect against snow blindness and glare. Select gray or green lenses. Lipbalm, hand lotion and a frost-protective cream help protect against frostbite.

Now, excluding the sleeping bag, you are dressed as the military dress their personnel for outside duty in the Arctic climates.

Write out a list of clothing each person should have. Then, these are easily gathered when the need arises. Remember individual special needs such as diapers. Most of what you'll want is likely on hand. Many items can be bought at a savings at the season's end. Sources for outdoor clothing are, among others: sports shops, catalog companies, discount stores and Army-Navy surplus stores.


If you don't take anything else along, carry a gallon of water. A lack of water can cause dehydration, a dangerous state. The body's most important need is for water.

You'll need to drink one or two quarts of water per day. These can include other liquids such as soft drinks, fruit juice or liquids from canned goods, coffee, tea, cocoa or bouillon. Use melted snow or ice only if necessary. Carry a one gallon jug of fresh water in the car for every person traveling.

While a healthy person can go as long as 30 days without food, the concern here is for a one to three day emergency. Change from a good dietary pattern should not cause any serious problems in a well, healthy person for that time.

Your hunger pangs and morale will be lifted eating some food. Figure 4 shows food which should maintain your energy and heat production. For three days for each person carry along:

1 gallon water
6 cups gorp-2 cups raisins, 2 cups peanuts, 2 cups chocolate chips or M&Ms (or 24 2 ounce candy bars)
18 pieces of fresh fruit. Select from bananas, apples, oranges, pears, etc., or equivalent canned goods and can opener.
18 cupcakes, sweetrolls or doughnuts or a variety of these.

Each day eat two cups of gorp (or eight candy bars), pieces of fruit and six sweets. This food will provide approximately 2700 calories per day.

Keep food and water inside the car to keep it from freezing. Select foods suitable for persons traveling, as infants, young children, those on special diets, and the elderly may have special food needs.

Alcohol and smoking hasten body heat loss so it is best to avoid them. Alcohol consumed may impair your judgment, affect your actions and skills and make you drowsy or excited. A calm, clear thinking person is warmer, too.

Figure 4.  Watter and an assortment of high energy foods will fufill your dietary needs for a short stay.


Along with your first aid kit, take a box of tissues, toothbrush, wet towelettes, medications you use, such as insulin, sanitary supplies and a covered container for toilet use. See figure 5.

Figure 5.  First aid and sanitary supplies will make your stay more comfortable.


As you sit in the car your body will bum up about 2700 calories per day if you're a male weighing 175 pounds (80K) or 1700 calories if you're a 120 (55K) pound woman. At 155 (80K) pounds, you'll need roughly 2400 (male) or 2100 (female) calories. As you move about, calories stored in your body are burned, providing energy to do work plus creating a good amount of heat. This heat warms you up and the area around you as well. Exercise, therefore, will heat both you and the vehicle. It will also loosen cramped muscles. Here are some to try. Use the minimums if you are not in the habit of exercising. Repeat exercises every 1-1/2 hours or so.

NECK ROTATION - Lean head toward left shoulder Ind rotate back, right, front and left. Return in oposite direction. Repeat 3-4 times,

NECK EXTENSION - Lace fingers behind your head. Push head back as hands resist. Do with head bent forward, straight and back. Resist for six seconds at each place counting 1001, 1002, etc., for each second.

ELBOW PULL - With the other hand, gently pull your elbow behind your head to stretch back of arm and shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Then pull other elbow. Repeat 2-3 times.

HAND PULL - With elbows at shoulder height, hook hands together in front and pull out. Hold five seconds, then repeat 2-3 times.

HAND PUSH - This time push hands together as above.

SQUEEZE LEGS - Place feet 18" apart as you sit. Cross arms and place left palm on inside of right knee and right palm on inside of left knee. Squeeze with legs and resist with hands. Do once.

PUSH LEGS APART - Sit as above. Place right palm on outside of right knee and left on left. Spread knees and resist with hands. Do once.

GROIN STRETCH - bring your feet up to the cushion. Put soles of feet together, hands across them. Pull forward to stretch groin and back. Lean on knees, but don't bounce. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

HAMSTRING STETCH - Stretch out left leg. Fold right leg with foot near inner left thigh. Attempt to grab left ankle and stretch. Relax and hold 30 seconds. Repeat for other leg. Repeat 2-3 times.

LOW BACK STRETCHER - Sit sideways with your feet straight out on the cushion. Bend one knee and grasp this leg and pull it toward your chest as you curl your shoulder and head toward the knee. Hold for 3-4 seconds. Return leg to cushion. Repeat for other leg. Alternate 2-4 times for each leg.

CURL UPS - Sit sideways on seat with knees bent and feet flat on cushion. Lie back as far as possible. With hands behind head, curl up to sitting position. Repeat 3 to 4 times.

SITTING TUCK - Sit sideways on the cushion, back to door, with legs bent. Extend legs straight out with heels off the cushion. Return to tuck position. Repeat 5-15 times.


Carry your favorite type of reading, a deck of cards and other games. Stationery, pens and a transistor radio and fresh batteries will help to while away the time. Add a travel clock to be used as an alarm. See figure 6.


There are several ways in which to keep warm when stalled in a vehicle in winter. Most recommended is STAYING WITH THE CAR, wrapping up in warm clothing, eating, and exercising. Your car will protect you from the wind, drastically reducing your heating requirements. Eating makes it possible for the body to produce more heat. That heat can then be captured with the use of warm clothing, sleeping bags, etc.

Figure 6.  Make the time go faster with radio, reading material, stationery and games.

However, if you feel you need additional warmth, there are several possibilities. These heating devices should be used with extreme caution. Spilled fuel, a tipped over heater and combustibles too close to heaters all present severe fire danger! Also, any stove that burns a fuel gives off carbon monoxide, so the danger of asphyxiation is a very important corisideration when these heaters are used in a confined space.

There are a variety of emergency heating devices that could be used for supplemental heat in a vehicle. See figure 7.

Figure 7.  Emergency heating devices can provide needed warmth, melt snow, etc. but use with extreme caution!