I'm posting this since these comments about what to do when stuck in the snow, might actually help. Thanks for the comments, Gabe, Duane, and anonymous(2).
I just read somewhere about the rule of three for survival (think it was on CNN):
- you can survive three hours without shelter - you can survive three days without water - you can survive three weeks without food
I think this list assumes you are in horrible conditions (i.e. extreme cold) and have fulfilled the requirements preceeding each step.
Sucks about the CNET guy. Guy went for it, and his family was saved.
if you live in a cold climate or plan on travelling it's a good idea to bring an emergency kit in your car if you breakdown/get stranded:
-extra gloves, socks, hats -flares -flashlight/spare batteries -matches/lighters -bag of sand, or salt or kitty litter (something to provide traction for stuck tires) -first aid kit -blankets -food (fruit, chocolate, energy bars etc) -bottled water -jumper cables -small shovel -fully charged cell phone
also read somewhere that if you do get stranded you should turn the car on for 10 minutes every few hours to provide some heat while still rationing the gas.
GOOD List - I also read recently that you should TRY to conserve the heater and only use it 15 – 20 minutes every hour. AND VERY important – make sure snow doesn’t pack up against the tail pipe, as you can die from Carbon monoxide poisoning.
I think once you got your car running, the snow would melt from your exhaust, but it is smart to clear it.
The map they used was a paper road map that showed the route they attempted as "scenic", not "impassable in winter". Which is tragic. It was also only raining when they started from Roseburg, quickly turning into snowy impassable winter.
They had a few things with them, and obviously they had extra clothes since they were on a long family road vacation. But stocking up on food supplies, particularly high caloric ones in an emergency, is smart. Having extra blankets, hats, etc. in an wintry excursion, is smart.
I would think burning tires for warmth and signaling would be a last act, once you are out of gas. Stomping out in the snow is smarter, they are looking for irregular patterns in a sea of trees. Plus, when visibility is low, smoke doesn't matter too much. Still, it's brilliant. Too bad it didn't work.
From what I understand, the gate was supposed to be locked (and they turned onto a logging road because it wasn't locked), the owner of the Black Bar Lodge tried to call Emergency Services to let them know he'd seen tire tracks, but no one got back to him. He tried to check it on his own, but couldn't get his snowmobile in all the way. The SAR teams who noted the road and open gate called it in and were told the OWNER OF THE BLACK BAR LODGE HAD CLEARED THE ROAD. In otherwords, had checked it out and found it didn't have the Kims. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
So sad. And it wouldn't have helped for him to set up a snow camp, because he was really trying to get help and was not staying put. That poor amazing guy! What a legend. As for going off the main road, I read there were bear tracks, so maybe he was chased? Not sure if that's just part of the myth already growing around his excursion (some said he had snowshoes etc.)
One of the best ways to mark your trail is to snap branches on the lower boughs of trees and drop them. That way searchers can track your progress without doubling back too much, and can scan for abnormally broken branches.
Setting a fire in a snow area is actually pretty hard. They dried out wood under the car to get it to "light". Green wood is very hard to set fire to, and wet frozen wood is nearly impossible. This may be another reason why they had to burn tires