It happens every year. Sometimes several times a year. Some family gets unlucky, makes a wrong turn, or makes a bad decision and finds themselves stuck in the snow. OK, actually it happens thousands of times a year, but most of these incidents end with a call to a friend or relative with a big truck and a chain. But a few each year become more serious.

Such is the case with this story A family driving through New Mexico is caught unexpectedly in a blizzard. They suffer bad luck, spin out, and slide down an embankment. It doesn’t take long for the doors to be blocked by snow, and then the windows.

Fortunately they were found in time. Under 4 feet of snow. Let me repeat that UNDER FOUR FEET OF SNOW. That’s 4 feet of snow from the top of their car to the surface. They had food. They had water. They had ways to keep warm. But it is quite likely that they were running out of air.

Of course I’m going to plug having a vehicle emergency kit in your vehicle all of the time. I’m also going to list the vehicle emergency kit contents again.

  • 6-12 liters of bottled water
  • Water filter and/or Purification tablets
  • 12-24 Canned food or MREs
  • 2-4 Emergency blankets
  • 2-4 Rain Poncho
  • 2 Regular blanket
  • 2 Waterproof match cases with matches and a striking surface
  • 2 Disposable lighters
  • 2 Flashlights
  • 2 sets of Batteries
  • 2 Knives
  • 2 Hatchets
  • 2 Multi-tools
  • 2 Handguns, 5 loaded magazines and ammunition for each (This is where a .22 survival rifle is really good too)
  • You regular meds, plus your spouses
  • First aid kit
  • Baby supplies if needed
  • Motor Oil
  • Brake Fluid
  • Transmission Fluid
  • Tape
  • Fix a flat
  • spare tire
  • Tire iron
  • Floor Jack
  • Gas Can
  • Belt
  • Hose
  • Cable or zip ties
  • Battery or crank cell phone charger
  • Battery handheld CB radio

They had food and water. If they hadn’t had food or water they still would have been unlikely to die of thirst in two days, unless they had some other condition exacerbating the lack of food or water. The Rule of Threes is in play. You can live 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Always have 3 sources of light, 3 sources of fire, and 3 knives. In this situation the air was becoming a serious concern and it is one often overlooked.

The windows were up. Nessecary to keep out the accumulating snow, and to lose less heat. And everyone knows cars are not air tight. But the accumulating and self compacting snow was beginning to act as seal. When found the family was lethargic. The exhaust pipe was blocked so while they were able to keep the car running for a while, it is likely exhaust was getting into the passenger compartment.

I keep a collapsable snow shovel in my vehicle. I use it to dig out of snow at work. But even a hatchet or machete could help one dig oneself out. Or at least dig a vent hole through which to get air in and out. That could be all it takes to make the difference between living and being found dead. This family was blessed. If they weren’t found when they were it could have been much worse. If they had no food or water it could have been worse.

Even Mr. Higgins advised “Throw a case of water and a sleeping bag in the car. It will be there if you need it. I could see if we weren’t half as prepared as we were, it could have been a worse outcome.”

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