What To Do When You’re Caught In A Winter Storm

A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied by high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall, and cold temperatures. People can become trapped at home, without utilities or other services. Heavy snowfall and blizzards can trap motorists in their cars and attempting to walk for help in a blizzard can be a deadly decision.

Be prepared and know what to do if you’re caught in a winter storm:


  • Find shelter:
    • Try to stay dry
    • Cover all exposed body parts
  • If you can’t find shelter:
    • Build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind
    • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention
    • Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat
    • Melt snow for drinking water
      • Eating snow will lower your body temperature

In a Vehicle

Stay in vehicle:

  • You will become quickly disoriented in wind-driven snow and cold
  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat
  • Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked

Be visible to rescuers:

  • Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine
  • Tie a colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door
  • After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help


  • From time to time, move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.


Stay inside:

  • When using alternate heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc., use fire safeguards and properly ventilate

No heat:

  • Close off unneeded rooms
  • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors
  • Cover windows at night
  • Eat and drink
  • Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing


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