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amlptj
07-16-2010, 11:53 PM
Just wondering say you were on a 40 minute trip in the middle of a really REALLY bad blizzard with the heat on at a comfortable degree and outside is probably about 0 degrees with the wind chill.

Now the car is run off the road and lands in a huge pile of snow that completely encases the whole car making it impossible for the people inside to get out.

Now how long before they will freeze to death? and would they have to worry about running out of air first?

DeleyanLee
07-16-2010, 11:57 PM
Snow is very insulating, so the heater could be turned down to conserve gas--assuming that the engine could still run, that is.

I've heard of people buried in avalanches who took several hours to dig their way out without suffocating. Their worse problem is digging in the wrong direction and burying themselves deeper. One might think people in the car wouldn't have that challenge, but they could.

If they stayed inside the car, they might run out of air. If they rolled down/broke a window, they might stand a better chance of survival and escape.

Chris P
07-17-2010, 12:07 AM
Suffocation is not a problem; trapped people could probably survive for days barring starvation or exposure. Turning down the heater does not save gas, btw, car heaters run off the heat from the radiator, unlike air conditioners that do put a power drag on the engine.

Wind chill is irrelevant once you're out of the wind. 0 F windchill in a blizzard probably translates to about 15 F regular temperature, and the residual heat from the car and body heat should protect the passengers if they are bundled up well. At least long enough for the blizzard to stop. Most people who die in such situations die because they got out of the car to get help and got lost.

I haven't heard of this happening in ages, but sometimes when a car is trapped in snow the passengers asphyxiate from the exhaust if the car is left running (the exhaust won't vent properly when buried in snow, causing the cabin to fill with carbon monoxide).

Drachen Jager
07-17-2010, 12:33 AM
This happened recently (last winter or the one before). A guy was trapped for three days in sub-zero temperatures, he'd pinned his leg or broken it or something, he had a very messy car so he said he ate condiment packages and rolled down the window to get snow to so he wouldn't die of thirst. He recovered just fine afterwards.

jclarkdawe
07-17-2010, 02:18 AM
Snow is an incredible insulator. Think igloo here. An igloo needs very minimal heat to keep people warm. So if the car is completely buried in snow, which implies a minimum of six inches or more of snow on all surfaces, you'd have a substantial insulating factor. With the engine off, my guess is initially you'd see a fairly strong drop in temperature, then leveling off at about fifty degrees with a slow drop from that point on. I doubt that the temperature would ever drop below freezing as long as humans are in the car, but at what temperature it would stabilize at, I don't know.

Air supply would last probably longer than food and water. You'd have quite a big airspace, although obviously there is a factor here of how many people are in the car. The more people, the warmer the car, but the shorter the air lasts.

If the car was completely covered, I doubt it would run for long. Engines require an incredible amount of air (think air intake here) and I don't think it could suck enough in through the snow without running out. Further, with the exhaust buried, fumes would quickly gather in the car. Anybody with any sense would shut the car off quickly. Further, the plowing through the snow frequently throws snow into the air intake, causing the car to stall.

Standard advice would be to stay put.

Now if you want to have some fun with your character, here's what I'd do. After he's stuck, have him try to rock the car, over and over again, racing the engine, heating up the transmission, until the car catches on fire. Now you've got your character out in the elements with a burning car. Just think what fun you can have.

You might want to look at A FALL OF MOONDUST by Arthur Clarke. It deals with roughly the same scenario. Clarke has another storied on a buried vehicle that I can't recall at the moment. It also seems to me there was a story about a train buried in an avalanche, but I can't recall any details about it, nor did I read it.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

shadowwalker
07-17-2010, 03:18 AM
From Minnesota, I can say you do NOT leave the car running, even if you're not totally buried. You will die from exhaust buildup. What you do is run the car for a few minutes every now and then with a window open a crack (and hopefully you've followed experts' advice and never let the gas tank get less than half full). You do not get out of the car. You do wrap up in the emergency blanket you keep with the car. People can survive with little more than some frostbite, esp if they have a cell phone to call for help.

Now, you might also want to add what was so important that this idiot is driving in the middle of a blizzard. But if, with the wind chill, it's still 0 degrees - well, that's not really a blizzard, at least around here. That's when you decide to wear a hat. ;) Seriously, though, a real blizzard requires much higher winds and subsequently wind chills of at least -10F.

Captcha
07-17-2010, 05:57 AM
I'm not sure you'd ever actually be STUCK in the car. You'd certainly be best off in the car (as previous posters have observed), but unless there was an avalanche or something, just running off the road wouldn't bury you deep enough that you couldn't get out. There's all that air space inside the car, so you could just roll down your window and shovel snow into the car and then tunnel up. And that's assuming that you were deeper into the snow than I've ever gone, and I've been in a few ditched cars in my day.

amlptj
07-17-2010, 06:34 AM
Thanks everyone for the advice!!! It helped me alot, never thought of the whole carbon monoxide thing but the car wont start anything.

Nivarion
07-17-2010, 06:37 AM
Snow is, as has been said a great insulator.

If its snowing badly and they land in a drift just a few feet high, they could be covered over rapidly.

The snow and the car itself will keep the air inside, inside and insulate the area. I'm not sure how well a single person could heat up a car but I do know you can heat up an area about a foot and a half around yourself to the upper seventies. (Survivor man did one in alaska where he was inside a snow shelter with a thermometer.)

If the car was full then each passenger would heat the car up.

If they know which way they're oriented, they could just roll down a window a bit and punch through the snow on top of them. Do this on the leeward side. Wait a minute and close the window. That'd keep enough air inside. Their body heat and blankets would keep them warm, so long as they are
actually buried. Do this as rarely as you can, and only during the day. Otherwise all the heat that you've built up in the car is gone, and you've got to heat it back up.

If they are not buried then they're playing a whole different car game. The air inside the car is circulating from the people. The wind is passing over the outside of the car's metal and glass and draws a lot of heat off of it, cooling the air.

Me and my parents were in that situation once. If it hadn't been for a friend passing by, we might have all frozen to death. Our car broke down in the middle of the road during a blizzard.

Kalyke
07-17-2010, 06:44 AM
Not sure but carbon monoxide poisoning from the running engine might be the cause of death. I've driven in white out condition blizzards have not gone off the road. If I had, I would call a tow truck and be out within an hour or so. It's funny, but it gets that way out here (Nebraska) and the tow trucks usually have the highways clear the next day. Lots of people are forced to go off the side, but they end up alive but embarrassed.

Supposedly frozen people are quite easy to "bring back" to life, so freezing to death is an uncertain way to go if you want to die. A fantastic way to assure death is to have a heavy drinker guzzle a lot of vodka prior to freezing. Maybe it is a DUI who went into a ditch during a blizzard. That person would probably not live long.

Someone else said "0"degrees Fahrenheit is actually not very cold. Try twenty or thirty below. I also have heard that "Wind Chill Factor" was made up by Weather men and is not a real thing, and is quite subjective. I mean, if it is a measure of how cold, cold "feels" then who is doing the feeling. It is just as cold as it is on the thermometer, wind chill has nothing to do with the temperature.

Also many modern cars have a passage way out-- if you did not know. Behind the back seat which generally folds down, you can get out of the trunk and there is a cord you pull to open the trunk. You can virtually tunnel from front seat to trunk to the outside so you would not actually be "stuck" in the car if the side doors do not open. See the owners manual of your chosen car for this information. (I assume that the car plunged head first into the massive snow drift.) They did this in order to allow children to get out of the trunk, and also so people could purchase long boards and such and put them in the trunk.

Snow is a very good insulator and if 3 sides and the top are insulated, it is doubtful, with the body heat of the passengers that you will actually freeze to death. The main problem would be getting fresh air (and the carbon monoxide issue). Carbon dioxide (from breath) can also make you pass out and die. You need fresh air in the car. Just a small stream of it. Ancient people and survival people stick a branch or rod up to the outer surface. You could do this through the trunk and create a series of air locks. With some emergency blankets (You would be insane in Nebraska to travel without winter survival gear, Blankets, some high protein food, water etc.,) you would be snug and in no danger of dying.

People in an un-buried car are more likely to die.

Chase
07-17-2010, 10:15 AM
As I stepped in one morning to the Big Timber Café,
A fifty-something waitress to me these words did say:

"Chase, I see that you’re a logger, not just some common bum,
For no one but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb.

I once had a logger lover; there’s none like him today:
If you poured whiskey on it, he’d eat a bale of hay.

He never shaved a whisker from off his steely hide.
He’d hammer in the bristles and bite them off inside.

My logger drove to see me. ’Twas on a wintry day.
He held me in a light embrace that broke three vertebrae.

He kissed me when we parted, so hard it broke my jaw.
I could not speak to tell him he’d forgot his mackinaw.

And so my logger lover went driving off through the snow.
He busted a drift in a blizzard at sixty-two below.

Montana then tried to freeze him. She tried her level best.
At a hundred degrees below zero, he just buttoned up his vest.

Then she froze clear down to China; she froze to the stars above.
As it plunged to absolute zero, she froze my logger love.

They tried next spring to thaw him, and if you’ll believe it, sir,
They broke him up into axe blades for to cut the Douglas fir.

And so I lost my lover, and to this café I’ve come
To wait for some lucky logger . . . to stir his coffee with his thumb!"

shadowwalker
07-17-2010, 02:28 PM
I also have heard that "Wind Chill Factor" was made up by Weather men and is not a real thing, and is quite subjective. I mean, if it is a measure of how cold, cold "feels" then who is doing the feeling. It is just as cold as it is on the thermometer, wind chill has nothing to do with the temperature.

Wind chill describes the rate of heat loss from the body. If there was no wind, heat loss from your body would be A. If the wind is 20 mph, the heat loss would be X times faster than A (don't have the actual formula in front of me ;)). This is why wind chill has no bearing on whether or not a car will start, but does affect how long a person can safely be out in the elements.

Tsu Dho Nimh
07-18-2010, 07:56 PM
Just wondering say you were on a 40 minute trip in the middle of a really REALLY bad blizzard with the heat on at a comfortable degree and outside is probably about 0 degrees with the wind chill.

Now the car is run off the road and lands in a huge pile of snow that completely encases the whole car making it impossible for the people inside to get out.

Now how long before they will freeze to death? and would they have to worry about running out of air first?

QUESTION: They can survive easily, die quickly, or die a slow miserable frostbitten death, or be rescued in the nick of time. How long does the plot need to keep them there, and in what shape do you want them when they are found? Tell me that and I can tell you what they need to carry or do or not do.

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It's surprisingly warm inside a big pile of snow, and it's a good insulator. Unless they took off in beachwear, they aren't in immediate danger of freezing. Think car = igloo and you aren't far off.

They would have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning if they keep the engine going.

Nivarion
07-19-2010, 12:47 AM
QUESTION: They can survive easily, die quickly, or die a slow miserable frostbitten death, or be rescued in the nick of time. How long does the plot need to keep them there, and in what shape do you want them when they are found? Tell me that and I can tell you what they need to carry or do or not do.

************************
It's surprisingly warm inside a big pile of snow, and it's a good insulator. Unless they took off in beachwear, they aren't in immediate danger of freezing. Think car = igloo and you aren't far off.

They would have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning if they keep the engine going.

Gonna recommend this. There are so many variables and ways of doing it that anything you try will be totally plausible. If you need a specific scenario we can help you get one that will satisfy your plot and the reality factor.

StephanieFox
07-19-2010, 03:50 AM
Wind chill wouldn't count unless the people were exposed to the wind. It's a measure of how human skin (which sweats) loses heat. If they are inside the car, it doesn't really matter what the wind chill is. It doesn't count for dogs, either, since dogs don't sweat.

If these people are from Minnesota, they'd have a winter car emergency kit with them. It's a small box of some kind which should contain extra mittens (in case yours get wet), maybe socks, a warm ski type hat, some high calorie food and something to melt snow to make drinking water – a metal cup and a lighter, maybe. You would never eat snow to get water as that would chill your core.

You'd also have at least one thermal blanket and maybe another kind of blanket in the car. Oh, an jumper cables. And you'd know how to use them.

You can buy these kits ready made or put them together yourself.

A real blizzard needs wind speeds of 35+ miles an hour, less than 1/4 mile visability and snow falling at at least an inch an hour for several hours. But, any heavy snowstorm with high winds can be called a blizzard by anyone who doesn't work for the weather service.

dinicthus
08-04-2010, 12:17 PM
Tell you what. If you ever show up here again, I might consider giving you an answer.

amlptj
08-04-2010, 06:27 PM
Gonna recommend this. There are so many variables and ways of doing it that anything you try will be totally plausible. If you need a specific scenario we can help you get one that will satisfy your plot and the reality factor.

Wow soooo sorry didnt realize there were any comments after my thank you. But ok here it goes, two people are driving in a really Really bad blizard in Glenside PA. (subs of phila) Anyway it would have taken place this past winter during the HUGE blizzard in feb. People here arnt that used to that much snow. Point being one road in particular when plows went through left mountans of snow on the side of the road. 20 by 20 feet mountans.

A guy (villan in huge truck) hits the car from behind then proceeds to force the car off the road. In the midst of trying to speed off away from the psycho the car starts to skid and then the psycho hits the car with another blow sending the car flying into a huge mound of snow. At this point the psycho starts ramming the back of the car into the snow farther. The car eventually hits a tree which causes the car to stop but when it hits the tree more snow falls ontop of them causing a little avalanch.

The car ends up burried up 3/4 of the way. Its a white two door car. The passangers cant open up the doors and the backseat doesnt open up into the trunk unless you also push some lach in the trunk. Cell phone cant be used because they are being monitored and they dont want the villan to realize they are alive. Oh and the car wont start now.

So what do you think the real life senaro for survival would be. I'm not expecting them to be trapped for really more then a day, i was just wondering if there would be any other things that could happen ex: cold or lack of air that could hinder there chances of survival.

Tsu Dho Nimh
08-07-2010, 11:25 PM
Assuming normal east coast winter clothing, they are going to be various degrees of cold and miserable, but not in danger of dying.

They can lower the windows and dig up to the surface to get fresh air, or even to escape.

Hallen
08-08-2010, 12:21 AM
It's a measure of how human skin (which sweats) loses heat. If they are inside the car, it doesn't really matter what the wind chill is. It doesn't count for dogs, either, since dogs don't sweat.

Um, no. It doesn't have anything to do with whether the skin sweats or not. It has to do with the production of heat. Our bodies, and dog's bodies, produce heat. That heat is what keeps our bodies working in the cold. Wind allows that heat to move away from the body faster so the body has to work harder to keep you warm. It also feels more cold to you since that heat is being blown away from your skin. It will affect a dog too, but not as much since they have an insulating layer of hair. Wind chill can cause you to get frost bite sooner because of the loss of heat, or to enter hypothermia sooner, again, because of the loss of heat.
Wind chill cannot lower the temperature of an object below the ambient temperature. But it will blow heat way making that object's temperature lower more quickly.