Polar Vortex Survival

When I first moved to Pittsburgh I was so nervous about frost bite warnings and wind chill predictions that I was afraid to leave the house.  But I soon learned to embrace the elements and was impervious to the cold.  I lived in Shadyside and walked everywhere so driving was not a problem.  I became so hearty that I once walked to work at Carnegie Mellon on one of the extremely rare days that the university closed due to weather.  I was shocked to find it closed and was oblivious to the heeded warnings on the news.

But the arctic blast ushered into town by the polar vortex is more reminiscent of the Alaskan based books I’ve been reading than a Western Pennsylvanian winter.  All I can say is be prepared.  If you don’t have access to a garage it’s important to check your car battery.  If it is less than three years old you should be in the clear but older ones often can’t even be jump-started if they sit too long in temperatures below zero.  Your tire pressure can also get out of whack.  Make sure to check this too along with all the fluids under your hood.  You don’t want to be stuck waiting on roadside assistance with these dangerous dips.

'Polar vortex' pushes subzero temps into Midwest photo                                  'Polar vortex' pushes subzero temps into Midwest photo

If you plan to start your car to warm it up, don’t let it run more than 10 minutes.  Check the tread on your tires which can cleverly be done by turning a penny sideways and placing it between the tread.  If you are able to see Lincoln’s head then it is time to get new tires.  And once you hit the road there are ten items you should definitely keep in your car.  A warm blanket just in case you do get stuck waiting for roadside assistance.  I recommend 100% wool since fleece just doesn’t cut it in the great outdoors.  A short-handled shovel to stow in the trunk in case you need to remove snow from around the wheels of your vehicle.  I would invest in a good one since you may need to chip at hard ice or compacted snow.  I recommend the Komperdell Expedition Avalanche Shovel that you can get for half price at Sierra Trading Post.  It has a five star rating and is made in Austria.   A good-sized, water-proof flashlight along with extra batteries in case your breakdown is at night.  I pack emergency candles too as a back-up.


Keep a vast quantity of hand and foot warmers that can be found in any hardware or camping store. HotHands-2 gives you up to two hours of heat and are USA made.  They can be placed in your shoes for up to six hours and are safe to use on your dogs feet too.  They use natural heat with no odor and are activated by air.  You still need matches though so invest in the best.  A box of the wooden stick variety are fine although it pays to have a few windproof/waterproof ones as well.  You can find these online and the best price I found was $2.95 a box at beprepared.com.  I usually keep a case of bottled water and protein bars  in my car year round.  It pays to have extra just in case you get unexpected company.  A syphon pump may not be something most of you are thinking about but you may have to play Good Samaritan for those less prepared than you are.  Light sticks can be picked up in any dollar store and have endless uses.  Children love to play with them, they make you visible at night if you stick them in a pocket and are great to stick in the snow near your tire for shoveling, etc.  Make sure you have a quality whistle as well.  You can use it to signal distress or get the attention of someone who can’t hear you outside.  They simply don’t come any better than the Acme Metropolitan variety used by the London bobbies.  The J. Peterman Company can have one shipped to your door straight from England for only $19.00.


So there you have it folks.  Everything you need to survive the arctic blast of 2014.  This is a winter you will remember for a lifetime and can navigate with confidence by being prepared.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s