MAINE, USA — This week's snowstorm that swept through Virginia left many stranded in their cars for more than a day on Interstate 95. The backup started after an accident involving a tractor-trailer. Even though the state wasn't exactly prepared for that amount of snowfall, there are still things you can do to prepare for that type of emergency.
Jared Bowden, a firefighter in Bangor, said the best way to stay safe during a winter storm is to stay home.
"If you can put off the trip in the middle of the snowstorm or the middle of the bad weather to the next morning when the roads are clear, that should always be your first priority," Bowden said.
But if you must venture out during a storm, there are some ways to make sure you're prepared. The first step is to make sure your car is loaded with extra supplies.
"Something to stay warm, some snacks to get [you] through, some water, and a shovel to be able to dig yourself out if you need to," Bowden said.
A shovel can also be useful to clear out an area around the tailpipe of your car in case you go off the road into deep snow, he added.
"First aid kits, emergency kits, they're a very important item to have in your home as well as your car," Bowden said.
Brad Greer, DrySee waterproof bandages CEO, said it's always a good idea to keep a first aid kit in your car. He said you should store it somewhere close to you, like the glove box, in case you don't have immediate access to the trunk.
Portable phone chargers are another useful item to keep on hand, especially if you're in a situation where you need to shut your car off to preserve gas.
"Have the number of your local tow company in your phone. That way if you're in an area where you don't have internet service but you can get a phone call out you can at least call your local tow company," Bowden said.
Another item you may not have thought of is an emergency whistle, in case you veer off the road. Greer said that whistle can be used to signal emergency personnel that you're stuck somewhere off the roadway.
Both Greer and Bowden agree it's important to take it slow in snowy and icy conditions.
"Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you because you're not going to stop as fast. Their travel is gonna be unpredictable because your travel is gonna be unpredictable," Bowden said.
Bowden said his bottom line is, "It's better to arrive late than it is to not arrive at all."