Disaster Resources - University of Illinois Extension

When Caught in a Winter Storm

Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor could cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and even hypothermia.

Outside

  • Seek shelter to stay dry.
  • Cover all exposed parts of the body.
  • If no shelter is nearby, prepare a lean-to, wind-break, or snow cave for protection from the wind. Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
  • Do not eat snow as it will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.

In a Vehicle

  • If you have a cellular phone, call for help.
  • Stay in your vehicle. Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
  • Run the engine (after making sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked and opening windows a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning) about ten minutes each hour for heat.
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers. Turn on the dome light at night when running engine. Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door. Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

At Home or in a Building

  • Stay indoors. When using alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc. use safeguards and ensure proper ventilation.
  • If you have no heat, close off unneeded rooms and place towels or rags under the doors. Cover windows at night.
  • Eat to supply heat and drink to avoid dehydration.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration and subsequent chill.
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