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updated: 1/31/2011 4:00 PM

What you'll need to survive a blizzard

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  • People should drive only if absolutely necessary. Of course, the ability to move your car also figures into the equation.

    People should drive only if absolutely necessary. Of course, the ability to move your car also figures into the equation.
    Associated Press file

  • Cold weather tips

    Graphic: Cold weather tips (click image to open)

  • Safe shoveling tips

    Graphic: Safe shoveling tips (click image to open)


With about 18 inches of snow and blizzard-like conditions expected to hit the Chicago area Tuesday and Wednesday, experts are urging people to plan ahead.

Officials from the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago said people should stay indoors if possible, and add storm windows or cover windows with plastic to keep the cold air out.

If you have to go outside, dress appropriately, officials advise. Multiple layers are ideal, experts say, because they allow you to adjust to changing conditions. Don't forget a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.

A pair of waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing on ice and snow is imperative.

Whenever possible, remove wet clothes immediately and warm the core body temperature with a blanket or fluids such as apple cider or hot soup.

Listen to the radio, television, or, if possible, keep an eye on the weather reports from the National Weather Service over the Internet at for updates and changing conditions.

People are also urged to eat regularly and drink ample fluids -- like soup or hot cider -- but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Experts advise stocking up on a minimum three-day supply of food and prescription medicine.

People should drive only if absolutely necessary. Make sure you have a full tank of gas, said Missy Lundberg of State Farm Insurance. Motorists also should have a flashlight, a first-aid kit, a cell phone and charger, blankets and high-calorie, nonperishable food items.

Lundberg said people also should have extra clothing like wool socks, gloves and hats, as well as road salt or kitty litter to help give tires added traction if you get stuck.

She also added having a tow rope or tow chain, along with a set of jumper cables, would be helpful.

People stranded in their cars are urged to stay calm, turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from an antenna or window.

Those with a phone should call 911 and describe their location as precisely as possible, she said, then remain in the vehicle until help arrives.

People are also urged to run the vehicle's engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm, but only after opening a downwind window slightly for ventilation. Lundberg said people should turn on interior car lights when running the engine to give rescuers a better chance of finding you at night.

People should also exercise a little in the vehicle to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion and sweating, and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.