Everyone — Even Southerners — Should Keep A Winter Emergency Kit In The Car

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Tuesday started much like any other Tuesday. I awoke, got ready, took my children to school and made my way to work. The forecast for Cullman, Ala., called for extreme cold with perhaps a bit of snow. Nothing to worry about.

Let’s just say the meteorologists got it wrong.

It started to snow before 9 a.m., and it was sticking to the roads. In the South, that always means trouble. You see, it seldom snows here. And when it does snow, it is almost always wet snow. And wet snow seems to almost always turn to ice on the roads. Have you ever tried to drive on a sheet of ice? It isn’t easy.

By 9:30 a.m., I had received a call saying the schools were closing at 10 a.m. By noon, everybody in my office who commutes to Cullman for work had left for the day. Businesses shut down. Government offices shut down. Some city streets were closed. And that was just in Cullman.

Elsewhere, it was worse — much worse. In Birmingham, Ala., traffic snarled for miles and miles as everybody tried to leave work and school at the same time. A friend of mine left work in downtown Birmingham at 11:30 a.m. It took him four hours to get to his home some 10 miles away. He was lucky to get home. Many people were just stuck. They ended up sleeping in their vehicles or abandoning them to seek shelter.

 

The same thing happened in Atlanta. The snowstorm hit there later in the day and effectively shut down the South’s largest metropolitan area.

I would imagine it’s comical to people who aren’t from the South to see a little bit of snow wreak such havoc. But take it from a woman who has lived either in Georgia or Alabama her entire life: Snow is no joke in the Deep South.

Because of that, I would encourage my fellow Southerners to build a winter survival kit to keep in the car. In fact, I would encourage everyone to do so, because you just never know what’s going to happen.

Here are 10 items Weather.com recommends you put in your kit:

  1. Blanket: If you are stuck with a car that won’t start, or that has conked out, and have to wait in cold weather for help, you will want a decent warm blanket as an extra layer.
  2. Snow shovel: Get a short-handled shovel, probably a coal-type shovel, to stow in the trunk in case you need to remove snow from around the wheels of your vehicle. You can buy plastic ones, but you may want to opt for a metal one in case you also need to chip at some ice or compacted snow.
  3. Flashlight: Self explanatory. Keep a good-sized, water-proof flashlight with fresh batteries in case your breakdown is at night. Pack emergency candles too, as a back-up.
  4. Hand warmers: Available at camping stores. Smash the bag and the chemical reaction inside creates warmth to defrost fingers that may be trying to change a tire or fiddle with an engine.
  5. Matches: You never know when you will have to manufacture heat. It’s better than rubbing two old, snowy sticks together, hoping for the best.
  6. Bottle of water and a few protein, snack bars. You hear of people surviving on ketchup packets that have fallen between the seats, but some planning will yield a better menu under emergency conditions.
  7. Syphon Pump: If being out of gas is your problem, and you get offered help by a good Samaritan, you want to be able to get a gallon or two of gas out of another gas tank to get you going quickly.
  8. Lightsticks: These cost almost nothing at a dollar store and can be used either as a light source or to wear in case you are shoveling snow around your wheels at night.
  9. Flares: These should be in your trunk in all seasons for putting next to your car if you are pulled over in distress.
  10. Whistle: It can be used to either signal for help to someone who can’t hear you yell, or to scare someone who may be trying to take advantage of your distress.

And here’s what Ready.gov suggests:

In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car. This kit should include:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and necessary medications in case you are away from home for a prolonged time
  • Food items containing protein such as nuts and energy bars; canned fruit and a portable can opener
  • Water for each person and pet in your car
  • AM/FM radio to listen to traffic reports and emergency messages
  • Cat litter or sand for better tire traction
  • Shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and an extra change of clothes
  • Blankets or sleeping bags

Also consider:

  • A fully-charged cell phone and phone charger
  • Flares or reflective triangle
  • Baby formula and diapers if you have a small child

Build your own kit or buy one that’s ready-made. Hopefully, you won’t ever need it. But if you do, I am certain you’ll be glad you have it.

Kelley Martin

is an award-winning journalist who has been covering the news for more than 20 years. She has a strong newspaper background, having worked as a reporter, a photojournalist, a columnist, an editorial writer and an editor. As editor of Personal Liberty Digest™ since 2011, she believes that accuracy is of the utmost importance in both news stories and opinion pieces.

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