Hope for the best, prepare for the worst; driving in an Ontario winter

What do you have packed in your car this winter? An ice scraper, check. Windshield washer fluid good to -40°C, check. Warm blanket… oh, right… you keep meaning to pack one of those. How about a winter emergency kit?

Man with shovel and blanket for winter road trip

With a slew of road closures already hitting local areas this winter, and forecasters suggesting a classic Canadian winter complete with lots of that white stuff and sudden cold snaps – it looks like we may be facing some risky travel conditions.

Sudden whiteout conditions stranded around 300 motorists on a 400-series highway just outside Sarnia back in 2010. They were forced to spend the night in their cars, and some ran out of gas running their cars to keep warm. One college student who was heading home had literally only travelled a few kilometers when he got stuck.

Car driving on snowy winter road

Every couple of years, we hear stories like this one. Only a couple winters ago, several heroic communities in Dufferin hosted hundreds of people in warming shelters when more than 400 people were stranded when whiteout conditions hit much of Southern Ontario.

If you got stuck in your car overnight tonight, what would you do to stay warm? What would you eat? In a perfect world, we’d all pull out our emergency winter car kit packed up nice and accessible in our back seat. We’d pull on some warm layers, break open an energy bar and tune into the local station on the battery operated radio we had packed (with extra batteries of course).

So, let’s be realistic, most of us don’t have these things in our car. But here’s a simple way to get started from Get Prepared. You likely have a few of the essentials needed for a kit at home already – a blanket, an extra hat, a flashlight, some granola bars – start by plunking those items into a bin in your car and label the bin so you remember it’s for emergencies. Now make a complete list of items you need, and as you collect the items, place them in your labelled kit and check them off your list. For a list of items to include check out this great list from Get Prepared!

(Original post date: January 24, 2017)


Bo Cheyne, Environmental Health Specialist