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Old 01-07-2008, 12:00 PM
Location: San Antonio, TX - Displaced Michigander
2,067 posts, read 5,310,773 times
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Well, I made it to MT and back alive. :-) The worst weather was in SW lower MI, IN and in IL. Other than a few miles in WY where there was blowing snow across the road, it was a good drive! Thanks for calming my nerves before I made the trip!
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Old 01-07-2008, 03:55 PM
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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I've travelled a lot in the northern wastes during winter, even during major blizzards (around Bozeman, if you aren't willing to travel during storms, you may spend the whole winter at home). Never had a problem, but I did a few sensible things:

When travelling in winter, ALWAYS pack like you PLAN to get stranded. Carry a sleeping bag, extra socks, food, and don't forget matches and water. NEVER travel without warm coats, warm boots, warm HATS, and warm MITTENS (gloves will NOT keep your hands warm in below-zero temps, but make sure you have gloves along too, for when you need to manipulate something -- ideally, gloves that fit inside your mitts). If you're wearing a dress, be sure to take along a pair of ski pants or insulated overalls and a pair of good insulated boots you can walk in. Those nylons won't keep your pretty legs warm.

Invest in a good set of tire chains, and have someone teach you how to apply them.

Invest in a good long tow rope. The flat wide nylon stuff is the most break-proof. Make sure it can be non-destructively hooked to your vehicle (test those hooks -- some suck) and can handle the vehicle's entire weight. That farmer who offers to pull you out of the ditch may be your only chance -- cuz you might wait 3 or 4 days for a tow truck.

NEVER let your gas tank get below half-full. Add a can of HEET to each tankful; it helps prevent gas-line freeze.

Perhaps most important of all -- if you're not SURE you're going the right way -- TURN AROUND, go back to the last civilization you passed, find a live human who actually lives in those parts, and ASK. It's too easy to take a wrong turn in snow and wind up literally in the middle of nowhere, or on a road that's actually closed til spring, where NO ONE will come along to help you. (Not much of a problem on the Interstate, but can be on 2-lane roads. Ask those idiots who got themselves lost in NW Nevada a few years back.)

And if despite all you DO get stranded -- DON'T LEAVE YOUR CAR (but do try to keep it at least partially dug out, so it can be seen from a distance; and if you must run the engine, make sure the tailpipe is clear). If you leave your vehicle, you DECREASE the chance that any searchers will find you; and without skis or snowshoes, you can't walk any significant distance in deep snow anyway. And it's a lot easier to find a big metal object than it is to find a frozen corpse. -- The only exception MIGHT be if you can actually SEE civilization from where you're stuck, but remember distances on the prairie can be a lot more than they seem. And a lot of ranch buildings etc. in remote areas are closed down in winter, so no one's there anyway.


We moved from Moorhead MN to Great Falls MT during the Great Blizzard of December 1964. Got snowed in at Bismarck and spent 3 days waiting for the plows to get through. (This was back when a lot of the route was still a 2-lane road.) No problem cuz we had sense enough to stop when we noticed 2-foot deep drifts across the road in more places than you could see pavement.

I drove from the east end of South Dakota to Great Falls on Xmas night, 1980 -- during another major blizzard. The Interstate was icy, and the streets in Billings and Lewistown were majorly snowed under, but I just took it easy and had no trouble. Did discover a great trucker's eatery on the east end of Billings.

I can't begin to count how many times I drove from Bozeman to Livingston, or to Helena, or to Butte, (and once to West Yellowstone -- never again!) during whopping great snowstorms. It's just a fact of life there. The roads were never really an issue; sometimes a stretch would be iced up, but I never saw a major Montana road actually snow-blocked in all my years living in MT. If the wind doesn't clear 'em out, the snowplows will.

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