How to Survive a Snowstorm

"I know how to survive" GIF
Read it anyway. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me.

During the Snowstorm

If you’ve got all the supplies and your home is buttoned up, sheltering in place should be relatively easy. Cabin fever is real, though, so make sure you have something to do while you’re at home! Here are some key points:

  • Do not venture out unless it is a dire necessity.
  • Wear loose clothing and keep hydrated.
  • Follow a normal routine indoors as much as possible. Exercise, work, read, and listen to music. (Unless you hate doing those things, in which case you should just do whatever you normally do.)
  • If you have an outdoor pet, bring them inside to stay warm with you.

Check out these tips for staying warm, in case your power goes out and temperatures indoors drop significantly.

Rule of Thumb

Make your kids put on a play. It might cause some drama and infighting, but if they survive the tech rehearsal, it should fill the Netflix gap nicely, and it might even create a fond memory.

More Survival Tips and Tricks

  • Fill up every pot, pan, and bathtub with water while you still have it. You might need it to flush the toilet. Be judicious about when to flush. You don’t want to run out of water and have to collect snow OR have to live with a smelly toilet.
  • If the power goes out and the indoor temperature drops below 50°F, turn off the outside water supply.
    • You need to know the location of the outdoor shut-off valve (usually a lever) and work it a few times beforehand so that it is not jammed. Once the water is turned off, open all of the taps and let the water drain out. This should keep your pipes from freezing.
  • Drink at least 70 oz (that’s about half a gallon) of water per day. Store enough to last your family a week, which would be 16 gallons (60 liters) for a family of four. You can melt and drink snow, but only if it’s freshly fallen. Boil it before consuming.
  • If your power is out, don’t open the freezer if you don’t have to. If you leave it closed, you might be able to save your frozen treats! You should get about 48 hours of frozen bliss with a full freezer; about 24 hours in a half-full freezer.
    • Consume fridge food and perishables first: meat, bread, fruit, etc. Conserve canned food for later. Avoid frying unless you are sure the kitchen ventilation system is working the way it should.
  • If your food choices are limited, give up the diet. Embrace the unbalanced diet. Chocolate milk has calories and would work fine as food. So would butter or cheese spread on bread. You are concerned with consuming 1500 calories and not the nature of the calories. Eat the ideal mix of lean protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates if you can, but if not… a few days of malted milk balls probably isn’t going to ruin your life.

Keep Calm. Stay Informed.

Remember that the most valuable tool you have is situated inside your cranium. Getting worked up or frustrated will help nothing and nobody. Be aware, but not on edge and you will get through it.

While you have an internet connection or phone service, you’re golden. Between weather apps and social media chatter, you should stay fully up to date.

However, that service can be easily lost. The radio in your emergency kit is worth its weight in gold if you lose service, power, or both. Keep extra batteries on hand, and do NOT sleep on this brilliant technological relic.

Collection of radios
We love you, lil radio friends.

When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for your support!

If You Do Have to Venture Out

Remember, emergencies only!

  • Before you leave, check the route for as much information as possible.
  • Wear heavy boots and gloves. Dress in layers to avoid hypothermia.
  • Carry your phone and ensure it is completely charged
  • Bring food and water supplies for 72 hours, just in case.
  • If you have to drive, plan on traveling in daylight and bring a buddy, if you can. Be sure that you have enough supplies for each additional person that you bring.
  • Inform someone else where you’re going, your preferred AND alternative routes, and when you expect to arrive at the destination. They should plan to alert authorities if they can’t contact you and you haven’t arrived within 30 minutes of your estimate.

Driving in a Snowstorm

This could merit an entire guide on its own. Driving safely in heavy snow requires years of expertise, and adding reduced visibility to the mix is a recipe for disaster. Nonetheless, here are some tips!

  • Invest in winter tires. All-weather tires are just not as capable as snow tires, which have better traction on granular snow due to deep tread and narrow width. 
  • Brake hard only if your car has Antilock Braking System or ABS (all new cars from 2013 or later have ABS, so just check your manual if your car is older)
  • Slow down. A speed of 15 miles an hour is more than most drivers can handle in a snowstorm. 
  • In case of a skid, steer into it. If the rear of the car goes left, steer left. Think of the car as a solid block; the two ends can’t go in different directions. 
  • Be careful not to follow too close to any other vehicles. Your car will take longer to stop than usual. Ramming into another vehicle can be a disaster.
    • If you are in an accident with another vehicle, move away from the vehicles, especially if they are on the road. Other vehicles can crash into the initial accident, creating a pile-up, and causing more injuries or death.
  • If your vehicle becomes stuck in snow, stay put. Unless you can see that you are very close to assistance, it’s safer to await rescue than to seek help on foot in a snowstorm, since walking through snow puts you at risk for exhaustion and hypothermia.
    • If you have sand or cat litter, use it to increase traction to get your car moving.
    • If you do need to remain in your car, tie the red bandana from your kit to your antenna. This will alert others of your presence.
car driving in snow
You’re following way too closely, bro. Did you not see Final Destination?

What NOT to Do During a Snowstorm

Some things seem like really good ideas, but they are very bad ideas. Read these now so you can make better decisions later.

  • Do not try to use your gas oven to heat the house. It can release gas into your home or give you carbon monoxide poisoning, assuming the blazing hot insides of your oven don’t burn someone first.
  • Don’t give your pipes a chance to freeze. This is super important, which is why we won’t shut up about it! As long as there is power, keep the house well-heated. If the power goes out and you can’t access your water shutt off valve, turn on all of the faucets in your house to a trickle. This should ensure that water does not freeze and expand inside the pipes, causing them to burst.
  • Don’t burn your house down. If the power goes out and you have to light a candle, do it away from the bed, sofa, or anything combustible. Do not assume your fire acuity is improved because you are cold.
  • Don’t lose contact because you are addicted to your phone. Conserve your devices’ battery power and your power banks. It might take a few days before power is restored. Watching Netflix on your phone can drain your power supply in less than a day.
  • Don’t create an unnecessary panic among the ankle biters. Assure children and pets that they are safe. A snowstorm can be frightening and immensely claustrophobic.
  • Don’t get dehydrated. Being cooped up causes anxiety and panic, so stay nourished. Have a lot of warm food and soup. Caffeine will dehydrate you and could make you more anxious.
  • Don’t get drunk. Alcohol makes you feel warm, but it can lower your core body temperature, which is not great for a person who might have to abide cold temps. If you’re bored, find something to do. Alcohol makes you depressed, can make you a burden in an emergency, and dehydrates your body.
  • Do not use a generator inside the house or basement. Lack of ventilation will turn your generator into a murderer.
  • Don’t have a heart attack. If you are not used to exertion, shovel gently. Shoveling snow out of the driveway is strenuous, to say the least. It’s a known trigger for heart attacks.

You’re gonna make it. I know you will! So all that’s left is the afterglow.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.