What to do if you're snowbound on the road


On the weekend of Jan 9-11, a blizzard in Fukui Prefecture saw some 1,500 vehicles stranded on the Hokuriku Expressway. It became obvious after the fact that the management was late in halting access to expressway. 

This was the second such incident in two months. In December, heavy snowfalls saw some 2,100 vehicles trapped on the Kanetsu Expressway, with some unable to move for as long as 52 hours. 

Meteorologist Asami Kuboi explains to Weekly Playboy (Feb 1), "These record-setting snowfalls were caused by three factors: One was a 'polar vortex,' that caused instability in the atmosphere. This allowed a strong cold front to reach Japan. 

"The second was the JPCZ (Japan Sea polar mass Convergence Zone), causing convective storms over the Sea of Japan, producing a chain of clouds. Because the water temperature on the surface of the Sea of Japan is relatively warm, snow clouds were produced. And thirdly, such phenomena as La Niña caused the currents in the upper atmosphere to remain static, which caused a halt in motion of the JPCZ." 

In normal years, the lowest temperatures are recorded from late January through early February, so the possibility of more blizzards over the next several weeks cannot be ruled out. 

The question then arises of what to do if you should find yourself in a heavy snowfall while driving. 

Aiki Hashimoto, a former truck driver, tells the magazine, "The fundamental thing to do if you're caught in a snowstorm is to cut the engine. The biggest concern of running the engine while stopped is inhalation of carbon monoxide. If the snow underneath the vehicle's chassis blocks exhaust from the muffler, it can cause the flow to be reversed, in worst cases resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning. 

"But if the engine is stopped, the interior of the vehicle will get cold," he continues. "So thermal or insulated items are needed to stay warm. The most effective is a blanket. Several should be kept on hand. They not only keep you warm, but for females can be used to preserve modesty when leaving the car.

"Also, you should make the tires rotate so they'll dig in, enabling you to get traction when you're able to drive away."

The next essential items, says Hashimoto, are a snow shovel and gloves to clear snow away from the vehicle's doors and muffler. 

"You should also keep a pair of thick vinyl gloves. If you only wear cotton work gloves your hands will feel cold when they get wet, so I advise wearing waterproof gloves on top of the cotton ones." 

Bringing along emergency food rations for at least two days is also a good idea. 

"While some truck drivers keep microwave ovens and electric hot pots on hand, that's not practical for regular vehicles," says Hashimoto. "It's best to keep canned items and bottled water." 

Another recommendation is not to regard oneself as isolated but to talk to other drivers stranded nearby. 

"If you engage with them, they might be able to help if you need assistance," Hashimoto advises. "Truck drivers in particular might be willing to share any extra food items, or supply boiling water to prepare cup noodles." 

In general, long-haul truck drivers know lots of tricks of the trade worthy of emulation. For instance, changing position and lying prone with one's feet elevated above one's heart is a good idea to avoid the so-called economy class syndrome. 

Other common-sense items Hashimoto advises to have on hand just in case should include any prescribed medications, a flashlight, portable toilet, one extra mobile phone battery, chemical hand warmers, snow boots and reading material.

© Japan Today

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Leave the scene searching for a warmer place at highest pace, while you still can. Even being arrested afterwards and thrown into a prison is still much better than quickly dying in the truck or car from icy cold, carbon monoxide, suffocation, hunger, dehydration and so on.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Typhoon conditions are forecast hours, if not days, in advance. Isn't that also the case for heavy snow?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Most of this really is what you should do before you get on the road, in case you get snowbound, but it's still good information.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Typhoon conditions are forecast hours, if not days, in advance. Isn't that also the case for heavy snow?

Usually, but sometimes the weather has some surprises.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Leave the scene searching for a warmer place at highest pace, while you still can

Eh, experience suggest this is a bad choice. It is usually better to stay with your vehicle where you can be found. If you take off on foot you are more likely to die from exposure or injury than find to find warm shelter.

Where I live if there are predictions of snow on the highways I bring extra winter clothing, coats, paper products, food and water, maybe even a toilet kit if I am going very far out of our valley. There are a couple of routes that are known to be shut down in a big enough snow and if I have to travel them I plan ahead in case the road is closed or we are stuck due to snow. Keep your fuel above half a tank too.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The most important thing is that females should preserve their modesty.. Wouldn't want to freeze to death in an immodest manner, would you? What a load of tosh.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

In other words, be prepared.

And pack your car for the trip to the shopping mall with: blanket, shovel, gloves (cotton & waterproof), food for two days, water, medicine, flashlight, boots, batteries, portable toilet, microwave, medicine, and a book. Why not just pack for a camping trip?

As for abandoning your vehicle while on an expressway: a lot of expressways are lined with stores of all kinds. But getting to them might take a bit of an expedition-like mentality in heavy snow and high winds.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All of this is preparation with lots of survival gear.

None of this, aside from turning off your engine and digging in your tires, is about what to do if you're stuck w/o survival gear. That's what I'd like to know.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I caught the tail end of an interview on the news where a driver was recounting his experience. Luckily he had put lots of extra clothes in the car before he set out. When the road jammed up, he put on every last article of clothing, and that kept him warm, he said.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It wasn't a blizzard that caused the tailback, it was a tractor-trailer that had jack-knifed. The cars were clearly visible in the picture. Had it been a blizzard, the picture would have shown nothing but white.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Leave the scene" only if you want to die from exposure or hypothermia. Carry water, sleeping bags and fleeces, emergency rations, and a phone charger.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Carry water, sleeping bags and fleeces, emergency rations, and a phone charger.

Don't forget your laptop so you can read J-T !

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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