National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Overview Types of Winter Weather Stay Informed Be Prepared When caught in a storm

When Caught in a Winter Storm

Outside

Find shelter:

  • Try to stay dry.
  • Cover all exposed body parts.

No 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.

Exercise:

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

Inside

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. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration and subsequent chill.

Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia. Take Red Cross Cardiopulminary Rescue (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training so you can respond quickly to an emergency.