Skip to main content

What to do when stuck in a snowbound car - and when moving again

By Saeed Ahmed and Faith Karimi, CNN
updated 7:54 AM EST, Wed January 29, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Turn on that engine only periodically
  • Don't stray far from your vehicle; it's warmer inside
  • When you're moving, watch out for black ice

(CNN) -- Snow in the South is a delight -- but only when you're admiring it standing next to your cozy living room fireplace.

Not so much if you're one of the hundreds of motorists across the South stranded on the interstates or parked at gas stations, whiling away a bone-chilling night.

For you, here are some tips:

While you're stuck ...

A car lies half submerged in the Cahaba River in Mountain Brook, Alabama, on Thursday, January 30. The driver was able to escape before the car slid into the river during a snow storm on Tuesday and was not injured. A wave of arctic air that started over the Midwest and Plains spread to the Southeast, bringing snow, freezing ice and sleet to a region that doesn't deal with such weather very often. A car lies half submerged in the Cahaba River in Mountain Brook, Alabama, on Thursday, January 30. The driver was able to escape before the car slid into the river during a snow storm on Tuesday and was not injured. A wave of arctic air that started over the Midwest and Plains spread to the Southeast, bringing snow, freezing ice and sleet to a region that doesn't deal with such weather very often.
Freezing temperatures sweep U.S.
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Freezing temperatures sweep U.S. Photos: Freezing temperatures sweep U.S.
Students struck by weather finally home
Students get snow day, start snow fight

Don't stray: Believe us, it's safer inside your car than it is for you to go exploring outside. For one thing, it's warmer. You'd be surprised how quickly hypothermia can set in. Unless of course, there's a gas station or some other building nearby where you can get warm and toasty.

Don't sleep: At least, not with the engine running. In fact ...

STRANDED: Southern snowstorm cripples Southeast

Turn off that engine: Even if you have a full tank of gas, it's best to just turn your engine on, say, once every 15-20 minutes -- enough to warm you up. Why? Because you have no idea how long you'll be stranded. And gas is your friend.

Beware of carbon monoxide: Every once in a while, hop out of the car and check your tailpipe. You want to make sure there's no snow clogging it up. Because if it is, guess where those carbon monoxide fumes flow? Yep, back toward you.

Stay warm: Wrap yourself in whatever you have handy. Your jacket. Or that ratty picnic blanket lying forgotten on the backseat floor. The key is to keep heat from leaving your body.

Stay connected: If you have a cell phone, now is not the time to play Angry Birds to while away the time. Save the charge. You'll probably need it.

Move it, move it: Clap your hands. Snap your fingers. Stretch those legs. Do the chicken dance. At least once every hour, it's good to move the different parts of your body. This helps keep the blood flowing and keeps you warm.

Drink up: Water, that is. It's good to stay hydrated. But don't eat snow. Your body will have to melt the ice first, and that requires heat. Heat you can't afford to waste.

When you're moving again ....

Ease up on that lead foot: It's better to be Mr. Late Arriver than the late Mr. Arriver. And use your low gear when driving on those treacherous roads.

Tap, tap, tap: To avoid spinning out of control, don't slam on the brakes. Tap on them instead.

Watch out: Black ice, especially on bridges and overpasses, can sneak up on you. Also look out for fallen trees, power lines and other obstacles.

Be nice: Don't block DOT trucks putting salt on the roads. In fact, don't pass them -- let them do their job so you can get where you need to go safely. And while you're at it, don't block intersections either. Does that really need saying?

Sing out loud: When you get home that is. You did it! You survived Snowmageddon!

Stranded drivers tell their stories

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Weathering the storm
updated 10:09 PM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
To understand how human nature sometimes doesn't heed winter weather warnings, listen to how Deanna Hunt didn't listen.
updated 7:11 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
A foot of snow may look big and bad, but it's a bunch of fluff compared to a solid inch of ice.
updated 12:24 PM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
Residents who have been stranded on icy interstates and at strangers' homes during a winter storm share their stories.
updated 7:54 AM EST, Wed January 29, 2014
Snow can be a delight -- but only when you're admiring it standing next to your cozy living room fireplace.
updated 1:26 PM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
The majestic trees that line streets across the American South are a beautiful sight most of the year.
updated 7:31 AM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
As winter storms continue to pound the United States, customers inevitably ask why doesn't somebody do something about this?
updated 10:54 AM EST, Tue January 7, 2014
Patience and common sense will serve you well.
updated 1:17 PM EST, Fri January 3, 2014
Power outages can pose safety challenges for medication and food.
can opener
All you need to know about keeping your food safe to eat and what to have on hand in the event of a weather emergency.
updated 5:22 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Schools are proposing a new virtual solution to snow days.
updated 9:44 AM EST, Tue February 11, 2014
The horror stories have been stacking up all winter: Students trapped inside school buses, or nestling in for a surprise slumber party in the school gym.
updated 4:53 AM EST, Wed February 12, 2014
The dire warnings have been heeded. The pantries stocked. The cars parked.
updated 10:41 AM EST, Mon February 11, 2013
Mobile devices have changed how we handle severe weather.
updated 12:37 PM EST, Wed January 29, 2014
Smartphones are not built for the extreme cold.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Sat February 9, 2013
In our increasingly digital world, a mobile phone or other portable device is often a one-stop communication device.
updated 10:54 AM EST, Fri January 31, 2014
Ever wonder about the tiny flakes that make up a blanket of snow?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT