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How to Survive a Blizzard

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calls blizzards the “deceptive killer.” Learning how to survive a blizzard isn't to be taken lightly. (NOAA photo)


The Fargo-Moorhead area of northwest Minnesota was hit hard this week by something no one expected in early October: 14 inches of snow. It caught residents completely by surprise. Few had winter survival kits in their cars, putting many stranded motorists at risk. Homes were just as unprepared, as power went out across the region.

No one died, but the possibility certainly wasn't out of the question. It's time to start thinking about how to survive a blizzard.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has some great tips for preppers, including how to survive a blizzard. With winter storms just around the corner for the rest of the country, it's never been a better time to review.

Here are the NOAA's recommendations, as condensed by Gun Digest.

How to Survive a Blizzard Outside

Being outside during a blizzard can be lethal. It's not the cold so much as the disorientation. High winds and heavy snow reduce visibility, which increases the chance of becoming lost. That when things get deadly.

If Shelter is Available

* Stay dry

* Cover all exposed body parts

* Determine if there is some way to make the shelter visible to others

If Shelter is Not Available

* Build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for wind protection

* Make a fire for heat and to attract attention (this might be impossible, but the takeaway is that warmth will prevent hypothermia)

* If a fire is created, place rocks or other heat conductors around it to absorb and reflect warmth

* Melt snow for water

* Don't eat snow, it lowers body temperature and invites hypothermia

* Find a way to attract attention to initiate a rescue

How to Survive a Blizzard in a Vehicle

* Stay in the vehicle, as it provides shelter and an easy way to be spotted by help

* Run the engine for about 10 minutes each hour for warmth

* Open the window a crack to keep air circulating in order prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

* Clear the exhaust pipe of any obstruction to keep fumes from entering the cab

* Move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously from time to time for warmth

Tips for Attracting Attention

* Turn on interior or exterior lights while the engine is running

* Honk the horn if help is close

* Tie a piece of cloth (eye-catching colors work best) to the antenna

* Once the snow stops, raise the hood to signal help is needed

How to Survive a Blizzard Inside

Houses offer a false sense of security during blizzards. Heavy snow and harsh winds can knock out power, shutting down heating systems. Structures may collapse. Ice may cement doors closed. Help could be hours or days away. Travel can be impossible.

* When using heat sources that require ventilation (a fireplace, for example), make sure snow and ice is not preventing proper exhaust

* Close off unused spaces to focus heat in used areas

* Close cracks in doors and windows with towels or rags

* Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, and remove them if perspiration kicks in

How to Survive a Blizzard in Any Situation

No matter the situation, there's one golden rule to hold above everything else: Avoid overexertion.

From the NOAA:

“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 Defi brillator (AED) training so you can respond quickly to an emergency.”

For about how to survive a blizzard, check out Gun Digest‘s articles about making a winter car survival kit and a winter bug-out bag.


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