After the last winter storm some streets in the George Mason University area looked like scenes out of a zombie movie. Deserted cars littered the roads. People walked about in the snow, looking lost. Some women were even spotted wearing high heels. What would happen if disaster hit again? What would you do if Mason let out classes, and you encountered the traffic

from all the area’s federal workers heading home, and a perfect storm of rain, sleet and snow once again hit? Could you survive a snowpocalypse?

To make sure you are one of the last ones standing, here are some tips from the experts on how to survive worst-case winter storm scenarios.

How to survive being stuck in traffic for 12 hours during a snow storm

“The worst scenario is not being prepared for it,” said George F. Brown, the National Incident Management System exercise and training officer for the City of Fairfax.

He said the key is to maintain “situational awareness.” He recommends students stay updated on weather conditions and know when a storm is predicted.

Inside your car you should have a winter kit, he said.

According to Kristin Nevels, a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, the following items should be in your car winter kit:

• Shovel
• Ice scraper
• Bag of kitty litter
• Battery booster cables
• Reflectors or flares
• A blanket
• Water and snacks
• Cell phone with charger

“Being prepared physically and mentally helps you deal with a situation like that,” Nevels said.

“If you are stuck or stranded in your car it is probably best to stay in the car. It’s easier to find a car than a person, and trying to walk in the roadway is very hazardous,” said Andrew Wilson, fire marshal for the City of Fairfax, in an e-mail.
“If you have gas, then run the engine for a while every so often to conserve fuel and stay warm. Ensure that snow does not build up and block the exhaust,” Wilson said.

Brown added that people should leave one of the car windows slightly open.

One of the most important things to do is make sure your car has gas, said Brown.

“In the wintertime, never let it go below half a tank,” he said.

Although not recommended, Brown said if you must abandon your car, make sure you leave a note.

“Write your contact information down and put it in the dashboard so when they start moving the car someone might be able to call you,” Brown said.

Brown suggests people have their car ready for the winter conditions. For a checklist, go to

How to survive if your car skids or you are stuck in the snow:

Nevels has a few tips for winter driving and for those with four-wheel drive. She said that although it helps, there is no guarantee that they will not get stuck.

If your car starts skidding:
• Don’t panic
• Steer in the direction you want the front of your car to go
• Do not slam on the brakes
• Try to wait for the wheels to get a grip on the road again. Once they gain traction continue to steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
• For a rear-wheel skid, when the rear wheels stop skidding, continue to steer so you will not have another rear-wheel skid in the opposite direction.

If your car gets stuck in the snow:

• Begin by physically trying to rock your car back and forth, keeping it in a low gear. It helps if there is a Good Samaritan willing to lend a hand.
• Always keep the wheels pointed straight
• If you can’t move forward, try to back out, keeping the vehicle in its tracks
• If that does not work, take out the shovel and kitty litter from your winter car kit
• Use the shovel to try to dig your way out
• Spread kitty litter around the area you are stuck in, in front and behind the wheels. It will give you traction. If you do not have a bag of kitty litter or sand, your car mats might work to give you traction.

For more in-depth information on winter driving from AAA, check out “How to go in ice and snow” at

How to survive if the power goes out in the dorm:

Ideally students should have the ability to fend for themselves for a few days in case of a snowpocalypse or other natural disaster, according to experts.

“People should be prepared to deal with an emergency and sustain themselves for up to 72 hours,” said Dave Farris, director of emergency preparedness and response for Mason.

If a power outage hits the dorms, there is no need to panic. In a dorm situation, heat will take a while to dissipate, Brown said.

Dorm Blackout Survival Kit:

• Flashlights and batteries (Do not use candles, as they are a fire hazard.)

•Battery-powered radio with extra batteries

• Food that does not require electricity to cook, such as Meals Ready to Eat (sold in some outdoor stores)
• Water and other snacks like granola bars
• Extra blankets
• Multiple clothing layers
• A map of areas within walking distance that have power and heat

“You are trying to avoid hypothermia,” Brown said.

As for students who don’t live in the dorms and get stranded at Mason, Farris said they will not be left on their own.
“We are going to provide shelter for students in case they get stuck on campus,” Farris said.

For more information on how to handle a power outage go to Make sure you scroll down to the subheading “Preparing for Outages.”

For general information on emergency preparedness check out or