Stuck in a storm? Tips from FEMA on staying safe in your car

The D.C. area is bracing for the possibility of more snow Thursday and Friday after a massive storm earlier this week paralyzed traffic on I-95, trapping hundreds of drivers for hours, many without food, water or enough gas.

So what should drivers have in their cars in case they get stuck in a storm?

A spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told WTOP that the agency encourages people to create an emergency supply kit for their car.

It should include a first aid kit, jumper cables, cell phone and cell phone charger, a flashlight and extra batteries, warm clothing, blankets, bottled water, nonperishable snacks — such as granola, protein bars or nuts — and any prescription medicines you may need. You should also have a shovel, an ice scraper and a snow brush so you can dig your car out of the snow, as well as kitty litter or sand to add traction.

If you do have to dig yourself out of the snow, take breaks. Overexertion can lead to heart attacks or injury.

The agency also warns against walking in the storm to search for help. Instead, call for help and wait for rescuers to find you. Other tips include hanging a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raising the trunk, and packing flares and reflective triangles in your car as well. FEMA says only leave your car if help is visible within 100 yards.

While you wait to be rescued and are trying to stay warm, only run your car engine and heater for about 10 minutes an hour and have a window cracked open to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. And make sure the exhaust pipe is cleared of snow, ice or mud.

While FEMA says you should stay off the road during a storm, if you do have to travel, make sure to check the local forecasts, adjust the items you may need in your car’s emergency kit, have a full tank of gas, winterize your car and let a family or friend know where you are going and when you get there.

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Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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