think beyond the obvious

By Madeleine Kates

As a Western New Yorker, you know the obvious things to have in your car for the cold weather months — an ice scraper and a snow brush are a given. An extra gallon of blue squirter fluid will come in handy when you run out on the road. A flashlight that works (check it), and some extra batteries are a must. Jumper cables are an old standby in case your battery dies. But what about items that are beyond the obvious?

You probably know someone who was stranded for hours in a whiteout. There’s a whole list of items people in that predicament wish they had thought of before they found they needed them. Here are some ideas:

Clothing. If you find yourself stranded in your car in a bad snowstorm, you’re going to want to be prepared for cold temps and deep snow. Grab one of your kid’s old worn-out school backpacks and put it to use for the first time in years. You get bonus points if it has superheroes or unicorns on it! In it, pack a winter hat, gloves, and a scarf. In fact, pack two of everything because you may not be stranded alone. Throw in an extra pair of dry socks. If you have an old Snuggie® kicking around the house (admit it, you bought at least one), throw that in the backpack as well, as you may have to run the engine sparingly to heat your vehicle, while conserving gas. You’ll also want to throw in a roll of bathroom tissue and a first aid kit, just in case.

Essentials. If you have medicines for which you can’t miss a dose, have an emergency supply discreetly stored in your vehicle. You’ll also want to have something to eat. Some people have medical conditions that require them to eat at certain times. Plan ahead with a supply of shelf-stable food, such as granola or protein bars. Keep in mind that packing liquids is difficult because, in the winter, they can freeze, and the containers burst.

Miscellaneous. A bag of cat litter can provide the traction you need to get out of a snowbank when your wheels are spinning. A small shovel will also help free a car stuck in deep snow. A magnetic blinking light or reflective flag can make your stranded vehicle more visible, which can keep you safer in the car. And finally, in the winter months, always keep your gas tank topped off. You never want your gas level to fall below half full because you never know when you might be stranded and need to run your car for hours to stay warm.

Planning ahead for bad weather, and thinking beyond the obvious, can make all the difference when you’re stranded in your car on a cold, wintery day.

Madeleine Kates is a Senior at Niagara University studying Life Sciences, Psychology, and Environmental Science.