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Better to be safe in snow

January 4, 2013
By MIKE HUGHES - Times Leader News Editor , Times Leader

So much for the end of the world that some believed would transpire with the ending of the Mayan calendar.

But hey, if you've found yourself overloaded with bottled water, MREs, power bars, extra blankets, flashlights and other assorted apocalyptic-scenario paraphernalia, fear not.

You can still put them to good use. Why you ask?

Winter has returned to the Ohio Valley. You remember winter don't you ... frigid temperatures, long nights and, oh yeah, snow.

Yes snow, that delightful frosty form of precipitation that was a scarce memory last winter, only flirting with the occasional dusting of the white stuff and never truly dumping any real inchage of the ground.

Well it's back, even if it didn't make it in time for Christmas. Snow has returned to the Ohio Valley.

No, it hasn't come in blizzard form yet. But we have received enough accumulation that's forced homeowners to break out the ol' shovels and snow blowers to clear a path from the driveway.. City and village street department employees rejoice ... that winter overtime is here.

You can take those overstocked items from your doomsday pantries, fallout shelters and overstuffed bug-out-bags and fit them nicely into a small box to place in the rear of your car, truck or SUV.

Because while the end of the world isn't here yet, winter is. And in this scenario, a winter preparedness kit for your vehicle is never a bad idea.

In this scenario, planning for "just in case" is a good idea, based on probability alone.

It's going to snow. You very well may get stuck; hopefully not for a lengthy portion of time, but it can happen. It's better to be prepared than not.

But what should a properly packed winter preparedness kit contain?

Folding spade shovel

This handy tool is multi-functional in terms of a winter crisis situation. Simply unfold and start, well, shoveling, to clear a path for your tires to get traction. Stuck on ice, stick the ice with the pointy end, repeatedly thrusting downward to break up the ice. Also, it doubles as a personal-defense weapon, in case bad luck is piling up on you and not only are you stuck in a snow bank but the zombie apocalypse has just begun. We are speaking of being prepared right?

Duct Tape

Duct tape is self explanatory. There is little it can't do with some ingenuity. One to two rolls will be sufficient. And if you have to ask why duct tape is necessary, simply stay home until winter is over.

Blankets/Extra Clothing

If you become stranded for a prolonged period of time, you're going to need to keep warm. You only have so much gas and battery life. Eventually, both will run out and that trusty car heater will no longer work. In that type of scenario, you'll be glad you packed a warm, dry blanket to cover up under.

Also, since you'll probably be exiting your car during the initial phases of your situation, your clothes will get wet. That blanket won't do much good if you're shivering underneath, clothed in a layer of assorted soaked attire. Stay dry. Stay warm.


A few litres of water will be essential if you're stranded for more than a few hours. Your body needs hydration. On the same token, easy to pack food stuffs like MREs (meals ready to eat) or power bars can provide enough sustenance to keep your body functioning and your whits about you until help arrives.


In the event you have to exit your vehicle to seek shelter and warmth, you better have the tools and ability to start a fire. A trusty lighter and some light-anywhere matches are essential. It won't hurt to have some steel wool and flint either. Another easy to pack tool to use for kindling is cotton balls that can be coated with petroleum-based jelly. They ignite quickly. Given the snowfall, kindling may be difficult to find so bring your own.


Much like the shovel, a knife has a multitude of functions in a crisis situation. Just pack one.

LED Flashlight/Road flares

Road flares are great for signaling for help when it's on the way, or when it's not, letting passers by know that you need it. Flashlights come in handy in the event you must perform some unplanned vehicle maintenance, especially at night. The trick is, bringing a portable light that can either be placed upright, or clipped, hung or stuck to a portion of the vehicle. There is nothing worse than changing a flat in the dark by yourself, only to discover that you need two hands to change the tire, and a third to hold the light. Unless you feel like getting mighty creative, clip it somewhere and get to work.

Hand-crank radio/Cell phone car charger

A cell phone, when in an area with reception, is great to have in an emergency. That greatness, however, is quickly nullified if the battery is dead and you have no way to charge your phone. Buy a car charger, make sure it works and keep it handy. A radio is equally important, especially one that can be powered via hand crank. Unless you completely run out of energy, it won't run out of power.

Those are just a few essential items that should be brought along. There are plenty other accessory items that, while perhaps not necessary, can assist a stranded motorist in a pinch. The contents of your vehicle's winter preparedness box are up to you.

But in the event something happens, it's better to have something than nothing. Happy driving.

Hughes may be reached at



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