National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Winter Weather Survivor Stories

John, Enfield, Connecticut October 29 2011

While at a friend's house watching a horror movie snow began to fall. It was late October and trees were still full of leaves. I said my good byes and began my trip to my apartment. As I was driving, I began to understand the danger I was in. The storm was quickly developing and heavy snow splashed on my windshield. A car crash being handled by firefighters required me a detour. Along a road I barely knew tree limbs began to fall, weighed low by the heavy snow. Luckily, I made it back to my apartment complex, where, with power out, someone had pried the gate open. I parked next to a neighbor's car with a tree on it. I worked my back towards my place in a complete blackout, then blazing light when the sky was lit completely blue by exploding transformers.

That next week there was no power for much of the region. Some parts of Connecticut were without power for 2 weeks. It's important to be prepared for winter weather before winter. If you lose power, heating, cooking, even getting money can be complicated. Having a car helped, but getting gas was difficult because most gas stations didn't have generators to power the pumps. The few gas stations that had power didn't have telephone lines to take credit card payments. Grocery stores allow for cash back on transactions which got us cash while ATMs were inoperable. Prepare just a few things mentally. I know in retrospect I wich I had!

Rachel Anderson, Seattle, WA, 2014-2019

I lived in eastern Washington but worked in Seattle for several years between 2014 and 2019. I didn’t drive home every night, but every weekend I made the trip over Snoqualmie Pass twice. I've seen cars speeding in the snow, whipping their tails around in a joking matter, all fun and games until they would lose control of the vehicle. We have had to pull over several times to assist another driver, some turned completely upside down at the time. When they lost control, they had only been going speeds of 35 at the highest. I've seen one car cause several totaled vehicles. I've watched a car get stuck in the embankment and the driver got out to try to get his car out and a subsequent car lost control and slid right into the man. Thankfully, the driver had barely stepped out of his vehicle and had only been knocked back into his car.

That was a real eye opener for myself, that sometimes it is better to remain in your vehicle or at least climb over to the other side and exit on the passenger side, where your car can keep you safe. Chances are if you spun out, someone else will likely too, and your tracks have just paved the way for the next vehicle, straight to you. Look, I get it. It's fun to play in the snow. Do it in a parking lot and not on the freeway. It isn’t just your life out there. It’s mine, and it's your neighbor's, your friend's, it's the lives of a new mother and her baby, or of someone's grandfather. It's all of our responsibilities to keep everyone safe. 

Dan, New York, February 1990

My friends and I were returning form a Presidents' Day weekend ski trip in Vermont. I was driving my car on the Berkshire section of the NY State Thruway at night in a blinding snowstorm. I could not see the highway lanes too well, and was following a car ahead of me for some direction. Suddenly, the car ahead of me went downhill on the left side of the road.

It struck me that I didn't recall there being a left exit, so it seems that the driver lost sight of the road and went down the median. I pulled over on the right side of the highway and carefully walked across the highway. We found the driver OK in her car, but a bit confused. We instructed the driver to keep the left side of her car, which was pointing downward sideways, closed. And we helped her get out on the passenger's side. We were concerned that the car might flip over on the left side, and we wanted her to escape on the opposite side of the potential flip. We got her into my car, and drove her to the police station next to the nearest toll booth.

We drove slowly on the snowy highway, and, thankfully, when we reached the main spur of the NY Thruway in NY, the roads were plowed better, and as we drove further south, the weather and roads improved. We're thankful that we were able to help a distressed person in a dangerous situatio