Stranded: How to avoid hypothermia in brutal cold

Authorities say Daniela Velazquez wasn't dressed for the weather when her car went off a snow-covered road. A doctor offers advice for when you get stranded.
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 4:44 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Action 2 News reached out to experts for advice parents can give young drivers -- and use themselves -- to avoid hypothermia in extreme cold.

Should you end up stranded in your car in brutal temperatures, Dr. Kyle McCarty with HSHS St. Vincent Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center says it’s important to look at your situation and create a game plan.

“Unless you know that there’s a chance of you getting to a building within 20 minutes, your best bet is to stay inside that vehicle,” said McCarty, the emergency medicine director for the hospitals.

There are steps you can take to protect yourself while waiting for help to arrive.

“Most vehicles don’t have antennas anymore, but if you have some bright clothing that you can tie to your vehicle to increase visibility, that would be a good idea,” McCarty suggested.

Keep snow clear from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up into the car.

Plus, consider shoveling snow on top of the vehicle. Dr. McCarty explained, “That’s going to make your vehicle harder to find, so the risk/reward on that is difficult, but snow is an excellent insulator, so if your vehicle is covered with snow that will retain a lot of heat.”

If you have a phone available, McCarty says it’s important to reach out to emergency services.

“There’s so many times where people don’t want to be a burden and so they don’t call 911 -- but that’s what 911 is for. Even if you’re not sure what to do, they can give you advice.”

Dr. McCarty also said it’s helpful to keep a blanket or two in your car. It might not be for you -- it could be for someone else you find stranded on the side of the road.