An icy traffic nightmare happened recently in Virginia following a winter storm.
Hundreds of motorists were stuck in the snow for more than 15 hours along a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 after a crash involving six tractor-trailers.
The terrible traffic pileup got me thinking. Can you imagine sitting in your car, in the snow, all night long? Cold, hungry, in the dark, and no bathroom. Maybe there’re kids in the back seat. Or a cranky mother-in-law. And you’re trying to conserve gas by running the engine for brief spurts to warm the car.
This could happen to anyone. Maybe not the snow part, but getting trapped in standstill traffic can happen on any freeway at any time.
I was born and raised in Redwood City, CA. Our town’s motto was “Climate Best by Government Test.” We averaged 20 inches of rain per year, 0 snowfall, 255 days of sunshine. In my mid-twenties, my husband and I moved to Reno, Nevada, where we got our first taste of seasonal weather—boiling in the summer and frigid in the winter. From there, we moved to Vancouver, WA, and then on to Seattle. Next up: Greeley, CO. And finally, Alaska, where we stayed put for five years before heading south to the California Central Coast and 0 snowfall.
We moved into our home in Anchorage in the early summer. At our first neighborhood gathering, our new friends told us how to get our cars ready for winter. Many shared horror stories of getting stuck in snow banks, sliding off the road, and whiteouts. So, of course, I got freaked out and heeded their advice long before winter arrived.
Car Emergency Supplies that everyone should have
regardless of where you live.
- Tea candles (those are the ones in a metal tin) and wooden matches
- Tin cans to burn the candles in and radiate the heat. Light a couple and put them on your dashboard. I found 18-hour tea candles online
- Snacks that won’t go bad sitting in an emergency kit. Peanut Butter, crackers, nuts, hard candy, etc.
- Emergency Mylar thermal blankets
- Emergency urinals for women and men—available online. Don’t roll your eyes! You know you’ve wondered what folks do in these situations. Picture it: You’re surrounded by bumper-to-bumper traffic and you gotta pee. Bad enough for the men, but for the women? If anyone knows of a device to handle poo in the car, I’d love to hear about it. Not kidding!
- Toilet paper and wet wipes
- First Aid kit
- Car Safety Hammer—an emergency escape tool with window breaker and seatbelt cutter
- A fully charged separate power bank for cell phones
- Jumper Cables and/or Car Jump Starter (make sure it is charged!)
- Entertainment that does not require power
- If you live where it snows, I’m sure you already keep a shovel and cat litter in your trunk
A couple of weeks ago, I drove to San Diego. It usually takes about five hours, which would have got me there in the late afternoon. This time it took over nine. I averaged four miles per hour for a couple of hours. Certainly not an emergency, but a reminder for me to be prepared. It got dark—I hate driving in the dark away from home; the traffic was bumper-to-bumper for miles and could have come to a standstill at any time for hours. My friend once sat on that same freeway for eleven hours.
I feel better for sharing this, although I’m sure many of you reading this are already prepared, so I just wasted a couple of minutes of your time. Oh! One more thing. I suggest keeping this kit inside the car and not in the trunk. And the Car Safety Hammer by the driver’s seat.
Additional suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Okay, Now I really do feel better.
FYI: My husband thinks I’m a worry-wort. When I met him I was twenty-three and carefree. I turned into a worrywort while raising kids.