Here’s What To Do If You’re Stranded In A Hellish Snowstorm

Don't leave your car and don't leave the engine running, says the National Weather Service

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Two cars covered in deep snow
What should you do if you find yourself stuck in a snowstorm?
Photo: Kena Betancur / Contributor (Getty Images)

The best way to get yourself out of a bad situation, is always to avoid getting yourself into that scenario in the first place. We might all have been taught the best way to drive in winter, or learned that it’s better to avoid hitting the highway if conditions are too poor, but sometimes that advice can only get you so far. And, no matter how much you defrost your car before driving, check the tread on your tires or pack an emergency snow shovel, you can still end up stuck if the worst should happen.

With the winter weather closing in, we compiled a few pointers for what to do if you do find yourself stuck in the middle of a winter storm.

Stay Inside Your Car

Firstly, the National Weather Service said that the most important thing to do is stay inside your car.


While it might be appealing to get out and look for help, the Weather Service warned that “you will become disoriented quickly in wind-driven snow and cold” if you try to leave your car for too long.

Instead, the agency says you should try and stay warm with what you have in the car. It added you can run your engine for 10 minutes out of every hour to warm up and turn the heat on, and charge your phone if necessary.


Ensure Exhaust Pipe Is Clear Of Snow

On the subject of running the engine, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added that you should ensure the exhaust pipe is cleared of any snow that may be blocking it. It also warned that you should not “run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space”.

A snow covered street in Manhattan
If it’s a white out, it’s best not to go out.
Photo: Angela Weiss / Contributor (Getty Images)

Remain Somewhere Visible Or Make Yourself Visible

The next essential step is to make sure you remain visible to any rescuers that might try to find you.

The NHTSA said:

“Let your car be seen. Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light on.”


The National Weather Service added that you should “tie a bright colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door” to increase your visibility to rescuers.

Provide Responders With Nearby Landmarks, Directions

On top of this, call for help offering landmarks or directions to help responders quickly locate you and your stranded cars. Additionally, many first responders can now use the What3Words location app to locate lost individuals. The system has divided the planet into 57 trillion 3-meter-by-3-meter squares, which are each assigned a random three-word address.


In addition to remembering these pointers, it’s always a good idea to be well-prepared for any winter driving you might have to do.


If you do need to hit the highway this winter, an emergency kit can be helpful whether you are on the trail or the road.