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I’m sure you’ve seen recent images from winter storm Jonas. As I looked at them, I found it hard to imagine. I’ve never experienced that kind of snowfall in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Cities and airports were shut down. Dulles International and Baltimore Washington International recorded more than 29 inches of snow.

From building collapses to car accidents, 42 people tragically lost their lives.

The tragic story that inspired this blog is the one about a mother and son who passed away in their car due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The snowfall was so significant that it filled in around their car covering the exhaust pipe. Carbon monoxide (CO) gas is a deadly, colorless, odorless gas that strikes quickly and without warning.

Keep these items in your car just in case you’re stranded in your car during a winter storm.

1. Keep a shovel in your trunk. If you’re stranded on the roadway or slide into a ditch, it’s critical to remove the snow around your car. If you idle your car to keep warm, the exhaust pipe must remain clear to avoid carbon monoxide poising. If you don’t have a shovel, use your arms and legs to move the snow away from your car.

If you’re riding out a winter storm in the comfort of your home, keep an eye on your furnace exhaust vent. If snow covers your furnace exhaust, carbon monoxide can build up in your home. Newer furnaces may automatically shut off if the vents become clogged with snow. To be safe, take a walk around your home to locate yours and keep it clear during heavy snowfalls.

My furnace exhaust is on the back of my house. This location allows me to keep an eye on it from my kitchen window. I also check it when I’m out shoveling my sidewalk.

2. Small candles and matches. Small candles and a coffee can may be used as an emergency heat source. Check out the article “Stuck in blizzard? Here’s an inexpensive emergency heating system.” 

3. Tow chain or rope. Roadside assistance is a great service to have. Many policies have a nominal fee to have this coverage on my policy. The service usually works really well in normal weather conditions; however, usage increases significantly during major winter storms so there aren’t enough tow trucks to go around. If you have a tow chain or rope, a Good Samaritan may be able to pull you out.

4. Food and water. Many of the stories reported were about people stranded in their cars for 22 hours or more. Coach buses filled with church groups and sports teams helped out by sharing food and water with those around them. Keep snack foods, such as energy bars, nuts, and raisins, as well as water in your car all winter.

5. Medications. Consider taking a few days’ supply of your medications. And a roll of toilet paper may come in handy.

6. Emergency flares, reflectors, and flashlights. These will help you remain visible and assist emergency crews in finding you.

7. Extra clothes and blankets.

There’s nothing earth shattering about the tips I’ve shared; they’re simply common sense. What’s difficult is actually following through with a plan to stock your car with the appropriate items to keep you and your family safe. Thinking you’ll never be stranded or that you’ll stock up the car later makes it easy to forget about packing your car accordingly.

With all the weather technology available, we usually have sufficient warning of impending snowstorms. That’s why I find it mind-boggling that so many people get stranded in these storms. But you never know what circumstances may bring, so I’ve packed my car accordingly. While my family thinks I’m an overly-cautious insurance geek, our survival could depend on it.

For more driving and survival safety tips, visit the links below.

How to Make a Winter Survival Kit

Expert interview: Winter driving tips from Road America

Expert Interview tip # 2: Winter braking tips from Road America

Six tips to keep you safe during the next big winter storm

Tips to overcome the challenges of winter driving

Six tips for driving this winter season

Do you have any winter survival tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.

ABC News
CNN News
Ready Wisconsin
West Bend Cares 
Image courtesy of dan at              
Posted 3:32 PM

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