Winter Special

In spite of precautions, you may fall through the ice. You must free yourself quickly: At a water temperature of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit the body remains completely functional less than ten minutes. If on foot, pull yourself free with your awls. Lacking awls, keep your body flat and attempt to crawl out, first kicking with your feet. When free, roll away from the break, and stand only after you are on solid ice. Now, roll in the snow to blot up the water, and brush off the water-laden snow.

Head for a protected place and build a fire immediately. (Always carry matches in a waterproof case, a candle, and tinder for a quick fire when traversing ice.) Once the fire is burning well, build a second fire. After both fires are going well, stand between them, shed and dry some of your clothing, and make a hot drink. If you don't warm yourself quickly, you are a prime candidate for hypothermia or frostbite.

If your vehicle breaks through the ice, your best chance of escaping it is while it is still afloat. Your vehicle will float from a few seconds to maybe two or three minutes. Water pressure will prevent you from opening the doors, so open the windows and crawl through them. After the vehicle begins to sink, you have little chance of escaping from it. It will descend steeply, the end with the engine first, and may settle into the bottom upside down.

Although hazards in themselves, blizzards--a combination of a strong wind, low temperature, and blinding, falling, or blowing snow--result in a combination of winter hazards. In a blizzard you could suffer from hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and snow blindness.

The best way to deal with blizzards is not to travel in them. Even in the remotest chance that a blizzard is on its way, stay put. Except for an emergency, traveling in a blizzard is simply not worth the risk.

If you are caught in a blizzard, you must wait it out. If in a vehicle, stay with it. This requires a lot of willpower, but remaining with the vehicle is almost always your safest course. Prepare for a long wait and assemble all your supplies and clothing. Keep the exhaust pipe free of snow. Idle the engine for warmth, but only about fifteen minutes every hour to conserve fuel. Crack a window on the downwind side for ventilation. Move your arms and legs from time to time for muscular-generated heat.

On foot, seek shelter immediately and build a fire. You might have to construct one of the shelters described later. If you cannot find or build a shelter, you have a final option: Burrow into a snowbank and crawl into the burrow. Many animals rely on this tactic for survival and you can too.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that results from incomplete burning because of insufficient oxygen. This gas can build up from a vehicle idling in a closed garage, from exhaust seeping into an ice-fishing house or closed vehicle--such as when waiting out a blizzard--or from a camp stove or candles burning in a closed vehicle or snow shelter.

You can die from carbon monoxide poisoning. At high concentrations, carbon monoxide can kill you in a minute. It cuts off oxygen to your brain.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headache, nausea, and blurred vision. Detect it also by a yellow, rather than a blue, flame from candles or camp stoves.

To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, keep closed places well ventilated. This means idling a vehicle only in an open garage, keeping a window open while waiting out a blizzard, and puncturing a ventilation hole in a snow shelter.

Snow blindness is an affliction of your eyes upon exposure to ultraviolet rays reflected from snow and ice. It's similar but more severe than the pain from not wearing sunglasses in summer. Your eyes become red, burn, water, and take on a sandy feeling. You may
experience poor vision and a headache. Strangely, you may become afflicted hours after exposure to the intense light rays.

Prevent snow blindness by wearing dark glasses or goggles whenever you are exposed to the bright, reflected light of winter; wraparound sunglasses or those with side shields offer the most protection. If you are caught without dark glasses or goggles, cut eye shades from birch bark or cardboard and add thin, horizontal slits for your eyes.

If you become snow blinded, cover your eyes from the light and wait it out. Expect a wait of a few to many hours for recovery.

Avalanches are snow and ice slides in mountainous country that happen when unstable surface snow and ice slip on an unstable base. There are two kinds: loose-snow avalanches and slab avalanches. Loose-snow avalanches begin in a small area or at a point, and grow as they descend; they leave a V-shaped path with the tip of the V at the source. The sliding mass has little form or internal cohesion. Slab avalanches begin with a large mass of snow and ice moving at once, and a wall forms where the large mass or slab separated. The mass has more of a tendency to stick together, but, of course, breaks up. Most persons are killed or injured by slab avalanches.

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