Virginia was just slammed by a snow and ice storm that caused cars to be stranded for 27 hours on Interstate 95, while elsewhere thousands in the state were without power for days. I know people affected by both incidents and there are some wise takeaways from what they shared.
Now I’ve a sister who lives in northern Virginia (we are 130 miles north of her) and even there, it was pretty unusual for her to get 10 inches of snow where she lives and for us to get nothing at all, even though a storm was forecast for our area as well. We also have family in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is 220 miles south of us, or about 4 1/2 hours by car, and they were without power for days in this ice storm. So while cold weather is not a stranger per se to Virginia, we often think in terms of us in the northeast getting the severe cold and storms. But this was an inverse case where it hit our more southern family and skipped us Yankees completely.
But I want to tell you what happened to the husband of a good friend of mine. Her husband is a contractor and he had work to do in Virginia. In fact, he goes down there at different intervals throughout the year and they have a little trailer down there where he stays. They live not far from us here in Pennsylvania.
Just before her husband left, my friend ran to her attic and grabbed a heavy, weighted blanket, 20 pounds. Now, when she first thought to get the blanket it seemed like a silly idea and she hesitated. But she kept feeling this nudge to go grab that blanket. Finally, she dashed up there and snagged it, and insisted her husband take it. He protested. Why in the world did he need to take a blanket? he argued. She threw it in the back of his car anyway.
Meanwhile, his 11 year-old daughter had made him a banana bread loaf the day before because it was his birthday. My friend told her husband to take that as well. He wanted them to enjoy the rest of it, he said, but she said, “Hey, it’s your birthday and Mari made it special. You take it.”
Well, you can guess what happened next. He drove off, and the next time she heard from him, it was the report that he was stuck on I-95 in this ice storm in Virginia, in his vehicle, unable to move. There he was, surrounded by tractor trailers and cars on all sides, stuck. She said at one point, he judged that he moved six feet in the course of six hours. My friend was on the phone with him until 3 o’ clock in the morning that night. Her husband remained stranded for 27 hours.
Well, he was beyond thankful that his wife had insisted on him putting a blanket in the back of the car. Not only that, the banana bread was the only real food he had brought and by the next day, he was ravenous.
But, listen to this. As miserable as the whole experience was to be trapped in your vehicle for 27 hours, they both thanked the Lord when they discovered that the trailer they owned down in Virginia had had a tree fall through it during the ice storm, crushing half of it. Had he been in the trailer as planned, who knows what would have happened.
The south is undergoing more severe weather. I just heard from someone I know who’s in Charleston, South Carolina that they are experiencing the lowest temps they’ve had there in seven years. Most of you probably heard about the Snowmageddon that happened in Texas last February and how ill-prepared people were for that. If you scratch the surface there are a lot of weather issues in the U.S. that are actually infrastructure issues – or rather, severe weather situations turn into disasters because of infrastructure issues – disasters that are actually preventable if government was doing what government was supposed to do and not on the leash of special interest groups.
But, if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t the kind of person who relies on government to care for you. Uncle Sam makes a lousy Sugar Daddy.
My lesson from the friends who experienced the severe weather vehicular stranding is this: preparedness on the road means first survival, and secondly, a world of difference in being reasonably comfortable and staying healthy.
And I feel like parents of young children do vehicle preparedness better in general, because they have to. Once I was out of the diaper bag phase, I just wasn’t as conscientious about being prepared for some of this. But here are the key takeaways from Virginia that all of us can learn from:
- Keep your gas tank filled, especially for longer trips (an hour or more). Never let your fuel tank go beyond half empty these days
- Bring drinking water with you each time you go out (we have some of those filtered sports water bottles and they’re phenomenal. My friends used them when they went to visit family back in Africa and they’re fantastic for just about everywhere)
- Car cell phone charger
- Have a little emergency bag handy – some people call it a preparedness bag, others call it a bug-out bag – that you keep by the door and can take with you each time you leave. What should you have in your emergency bag? Definitely any medications you might need if you were away longer than expected, epi-pens etc. A friend of mine always grabs his emergency bag no matter where he goes and he keeps in it a few heavy duty 3 mil. black trash bags. It is amazing the uses for a trash bag in various scenarios, including as a rain poncho, simple shelter against elements, solar heating for contained water, and of course for hauling items.
- First Aid kit with band-aids, gauze, antibiotic ointment, etc.
- protein or granola bars, unsalted nuts, and other high energy snack items
- kleenex and/or a roll of TP
- baby wipes and/or disinfectant wipes
- duct tape is great for temporary repairs and for things like securing the trash bags you might use as a tarp against the elements
- small flashlight with extra batteries
- If you carry, firearms and ammunition properly stored
Seasonal vehicle preparedness might be a little different depending on where you live, but it’s good always to have:
- Jumper cables
- Took kit or multi-purpose tool
- Spare tire with wheel wrench and jack
- Reflective triangles
- Reflective vest or reflective tape to add to clothing if you need to walk somewhere
I keep my ice scraper and brush in my car year-round, but in winter I also keep a small shovel in the back. Having some of those “hot hands” hand warmers is another great preparedness item.
Finally, obey those little nudges. We are foremost spirit beings existing in physical bodies. Each person has a spirit. Some are more sensitive than others, but all of us are valued by our Creator. When my friend told me her story of what happened to her husband, the hesitation on both their parts for what was pretty much a routine trip on his part, and how she followed her intuition, it reminded me of a story a relative of mine told me years ago. He was overseas in the military, hunched in an aircraft, when he had a sudden unexplained urge to get up from where he was and move. No sooner did he do so, than a piece of metal flew through the airplane, right where he’d been sitting. This relation was not a person of faith, he said, but he couldn’t deny that his life had been spared in a remarkable way that he couldn’t explain.
If you have other ideas about items you bring in your vehicle for preparedness, please share them with us below.