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Should you stay in your car in a storm? What’s the best thing to do?

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It can happen to anyone, even if they are weather alert. All of a sudden you find yourself driving through a storm. It doesn’t matter if it’s a snow or rainstorm. Road conditions can quickly become dangerous. Even high winds, associated with a storm, can cause problems.

When you find yourself in a storm, what should you do? Do you stay in the car or look for shelter on foot? Keeping reading to find out what you should do if you are caught in a storm.

What to do if your driving in a storm

What you should do if your caught in bad weather while driving depends on the type of storm. Sometimes you must stay in the car and other times you want to exit the vehicle as quickly as possible.

Rain and Hail Storms

If you find yourself caught in heavy rain or hail, visibility will be affected. When you can’t see the road, it is time to pull over. If you pull over to the side of the road, even under an overpass, be sure to turn on your hazards. You also want to engage the parking brake. This way other drivers will see you, even in heavy downpours.

A few other safety precautions include,

  • Do not park under trees, telephone poles or other similar objects. They can be blown over by high winds, creating an additional dangerous situation.
  • Hail can be especially dangerous since it can shatter windshield glass. To prevent injuries from broken glass turn your face towards the back of the seat. If possible, lay down on the floor. Covering yourself with a jacket, blanket or other types of clothing can provide you with added protection.

Lightning and Thunderstorms

When a thunderstorm brings lightning, you want to stay in your car. It is also a good idea to pull over. If you can safely get to shelter, and don’t mind getting soaked, turn your car off and run inside.

If you can’t make it to any shelter, stay in your car. It is safer than being outside. The vehicle’s metal frame will act as a conduit if the car is struck by lightning keeping you safe inside. You do want to refrain from touching anything metal in the car. This includes the radio and any handheld devices that might be plugged in.

Electrical currents can still be present and give you an unpleasant shock. Wait until the storm is over before touching anything inside the vehicle. Experts recommend keeping your hands safely folded in your lap to prevent any accidental shocks.

Flash Floods

Even if an area is not prone to flooding, a heavy thunderstorm can cause one. Flash floods can happen in an instant, giving drivers almost no warning. This is one of the reasons why they can be so dangerous and devastating.

If you know that your area is under a flash flood advisory it’s best to stay off the road. Sometimes this is not always possible and you need to know what to do to keep yourself safe.

  • If you see standing water on the road, turn around. Do not try to drive through the water, even if you see other vehicles making it through it. During a flash flood, you never know how quickly the water can rise. You can easily become trapped in the rapidly moving water.

Sometimes you can’t avoid getting trapped in a flash flood. The first thing to do is to stay calm. To avoid being submerged or washed away with your vehicle, there are a few steps to follow.

  1. Unbuckle your seat belt and have passengers do the same. If there are young children in the car, you might need to help them unbuckle their seat belts.
  2. Roll down one car window. If it won’t roll down due to an electrical short, break the glass with any sharp or heavy object you might have in the car. Even an umbrella handle can be useful.
  3. Once the window is open, get yourself and everyone else out of the flooded vehicle. You might have to swim or wade, but it is safer than being washed away in your car.
  4. Get to high ground and shelter as quickly as possible.

Your vehicle might be a total loss but at least you are safe and not one more person emergency crews have to rescue.

Snow Storms

Snow storms can be unpredictable. A few flurries can quickly turn into a blizzard with white-out conditions. If you get stuck in a snow storm without any shelter nearby, you should stay in your vehicle. It is too dangerous to wander around in a blizzard. Not only is it easy to get confused and lose your sense of direction,  but it also doesn’t take long for hypothermia and frostbite to set in.

Here are a few tips on how to stay safe during a snow storm.

  • If you have cell phone service call 911. You want emergency personnel to be aware that you are trapped in your vehicle and it’s location.
  • Once again, remain in your vehicle until help arrives.
  • It doesn’t take long for your vehicle to be covered in snow making it difficult for rescuers to find. Turn on your hazards. If you have flares, set them out. Some vehicles have radio antennas if there’s one on your car tie a piece of bright colored fabric to it.
  • Moving your arms and legs inside the vehicle will help keep circulation moving. Even clapping your hands can help. Cover up with any extra layers in your vehicle, even with maps or floor mats. You want to keep in as much body heat as possible. Huddling with your passengers can also help you stay warm. If you turn the heat on, only do so for ten minutes once an hour.
  • You also want to stay hydrated to prevent some of the health issues that exposure to cold weather can cause.

By following these steps you can survive being trapped in your car during a snow storm, even if you are stranded overnight.

Are you prepared if stuck in a storm?

Your chances of being stuck in a storm are higher than you might think. It can happen to anyone, no matter where they live. There are a few items you should always have in your vehicle, someday the items in your emergency kit could help save your life.

Here’s what every driver should have in their car.

  • Basic first aid kit
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Flares to alert others your vehicle is parked
  • Cellphone with charger
  • A scraper and brush for ice and snow removal
  • Jumper cables
  • A blanket or if there’s room a sleeping bag
  • Extra clothes
  • Sand for traction. Non-clumping litter is also effective

If you live in an area with high average snowfalls, you might also want to include a snow-shovel and tire chains. You can find snow shovels that fold down for easy portability. If tire chains are too bulky, tow straps work just as well. They are also easier to store. The main thing is to be prepared before you are stuck in a storm.

Final Thoughts

You can stay safe in your car during a storm, even overnight in below freezing temperatures. In most cases, unless there is shelter within your line of sight, the best thing to do is to stay in the car. The only time you want to abandon your vehicle is if you are caught in a flash flood.

Staying calm and being prepared will keep you and any passengers with you safe until the storm passes or help arrives.

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