How to Survive a Blizzard

Winter Storm Safety Tips

woman gesturing for help outside a blue car on a snowy road
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Knowing how to survive a blizzard or other winter storm is a crucial, (though hopefully unused) bit of knowledge everyone should know. There are multiple types of winter storms and each can be deadly killers. Imagine being snowed in or being stranded in a car during a blizzard. Would you know how to survive? This advice could save your life.

How to Survive a Winter Storm


  • Seek some form of shelter immediately. Blowing winds can cause the wind chill to reduce your core body temperature to dangerous levels. The risk of frostbite and hypothermia increase every minute you are exposed to the cold weather.
  • If you are wet, try to get dry. Lighting a small fire will not only provide warmth but will enable your clothing to dry out.
  • Deep snow can actually act as an insulation from the wind and cold temperatures. Digging a snow cave can actually save your life.
  • Stay hydrated, but DO NOT eat snow. (Because your body must heat the ice in order to melt it into water, you'd actually lose heat.) If you do get your water from snow, make sure to melt it before drinking it. (For example, use a heating source or indirect body heat like a canteen inside your coat, but not directly next to your skin.) 

In a Car or Truck:

  • Never leave your vehicle. If you are stranded, it will offer a form of protection from overexposure to the cold. A single person walking through the snow is also harder to find than a stranded car or truck.
  • It is okay to run the car for short periods to provide some heat. Remember to crack the windows a small amount to allow for the circulation of fresh air. Dangerous exhaust fumes, including carbon monoxide, can build up very quickly. This is especially true if the tailpipe is buried in the snow.
  • Keep yourself moving. A car offers little room for you to keep your blood flowing, but exercise is a must. Clap your hands, stomp your feet, and move around as much as possible at least once an hour. In addition to keeping your body moving, keep your mind and spirit from getting "down," depressed, or overly stressed.
  • Make the car visible for a rescue. Hang bits of bright colored cloth or plastic from the windows. If the snow has stopped falling, open the hood of the car as a signal of distress.

At Home:

  • If the electricity goes out, use an alternative form of heat with caution. Fireplaces and kerosene heaters can be dangerous without proper ventilation. Keep children away from any alternative heat source.
  • Stick to one room for heat and close off unnecessary rooms in the house. Make sure there are no air leaks in the room. Keep sunlight streaming through the windows in the day, but cover all windows at night to keep warm air in and cold outside air out.
  • Keep hydrated and nourished in case the heat is out for an extended period of time. An unhealthy body will be more susceptible to the cold than a healthy one.
  • Pets must also be protected from the cold. When temperatures drop below freezing, outdoor pets should be moved indoors or to a sheltered area to protect them from the cold.

Other Tips for Winter Weather Safety

Always have a winter weather emergency kit available. While these can be purchased, it's always best to create your own emergency kit for your home and your car to tailor it to the weather hazard. If you have small children, remember to actually practice using the kits. In the event of a winter emergency, kids should know where the kit is located and how to use it.

In addition to having a winter safety kit, all family members should be able to recognize the signs of hypothermia and basic first aid treatment for cold exposure.

Finally, if your region is prone to winter storms of any type, consider buying a weather radio so that no matter you're always plugged into the latest forecast. Multiple types of winter weather advisories each have their own dangers.

You might also like to check out these additional winter weather resources:

Updated by Tiffany Means


A Guide to Survival from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - National Weather Service Warning and Forecast Branch, November 1991

NOAA/FEMA/The American Red Cross

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Oblack, Rachelle. "How to Survive a Blizzard." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Oblack, Rachelle. (2020, August 26). How to Survive a Blizzard. Retrieved from Oblack, Rachelle. "How to Survive a Blizzard." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).