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How to Survive in Extreme Cold

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 2

What is Extreme Cold?

Snowed In

I live in extreme cold where it can get down to -50 F.  Minus 40 F is just cold in Alaska, but if you drop that temperature into New York City, then it's extreme.It's all about what you're used to, and what you're prepared for.Think it doesn't get cold where you live?
Check out these record lows for the U.S.

State         Temp.       Date            Station        Elevation
              ( F)                                         (feet)
Alabama        -27    Jan. 30, 1966     New Market           760
Alaska         -80    Jan. 23, 1971     Prospect Creek     1,100
Arizona        -40    Jan.  7, 1971     Hawley Lake        8,180
Arkansas       -29    Feb. 13, 1905     Pond               1,250
California     -45    Jan. 20, 1937     Boca               5,532
Colorado       -61    Feb.  1, 1985     Maybell            5,920
Connecticut    -32    Feb. 16, 1943     Falls Village        585
Delaware       -17    Jan. 17, 1893     Millsboro             20
Florida        - 2    Feb. 13, 1899     Tallahassee          193
Georgia        -17    Jan. 27, 1940     N. Floyd County    1,000
Hawaii          12    May  17, 1979     Mauna Kea         13,770
Idaho          -60    Jan. 18, 1943     Island Park Dam    6,285
Illinois       -36    Jan.  5, 1999     Congerville          722
Indiana        -36    Jan. 19, 1994     New Whiteland        785
Iowa           -47    Feb.  3, 1996*    Elkader              770
Kansas         -40    Feb. 13, 1905     Lebanon            1,812
Kentucky       -37    Jan. 19, 1994     Shelbyville          730
Louisiana      -16    Feb. 13, 1899     Minden               194
Maine          -48    Jan. 19, 1925     Van Buren            458
Maryland       -40    Jan. 13, 1912     Oakland            2,461
Massachusetts  -35    Jan. 12, 1981     Chester              640
Michigan       -51    Feb.  9, 1934     Vanderbilt           785
Minnesota      -60    Feb.  2, 1996     Tower              1,430   
Mississippi    -19    Jan. 30, 1966     Corinth              420
Missouri       -40    Feb. 13, 1905     Warsaw               700
Montana        -70    Jan. 20, 1954     Rogers Pass        5,470
Nebraska       -47    Feb. 12, 1899     Camp Clarke        3,700
Nevada         -50    Jan.  8, 1937     San Jacinto        5,200
New Hampshire  -47    Jan. 29, 1934     Mt. Washington     6,288
New Jersey     -34    Jan.  5, 1904     River Vale            70
New Mexico     -50    Feb.  1, 1951     Gavilan            7,350
New York       -52    Feb. 18, 1979*    Old Forge          1,720
North Carolina -34    Jan. 21, 1985     Mt. Mitchell       6,525
North Dakota   -60    Feb. 15, 1936     Parshall           1,929
Ohio           -39    Feb. 10, 1899     Milligan             800
Oklahoma       -31    Feb.  9, 2011     Nowata               709
Oregon         -54    Feb. 10, 1933*    Seneca             4,700
Pennsylvania   -42    Jan.  5, 1904     Smethport     est. 1,500
Rhode Island   -25    Feb.  5, 1996     Greene               425
South Carolina -19    Jan. 21, 1985     Caesars Head       3,100
South Dakota   -58    Feb. 17, 1936     McIntosh           2,277
Tennessee      -32    Dec. 30, 1917     Mountain City      2,471
Texas          -23    Feb.  8, 1933*    Seminole           3,275
Utah           -69    Feb.  1, 1985     Peter's Sink       8,092
Vermont        -50    Dec. 30, 1933     Bloomfield           915
Virginia       -30    Jan. 22, 1985     Mountain Lake      3,870
Washington     -48    Dec. 30, 1968     Mazama             2,120
                                        Winthrop           1,755 
West Virginia  -37    Dec. 30, 1917     Lewisburg          2,200
Wisconsin      -55    Feb.4,   1996     Couderay           1,300  
Wyoming        -66    Feb.  9, 1933     Riverside          6,650

(from the US National Climatic Data Center)

It's not just the cold that can be a problem. A heavy snowfall can leave you stranded for days.
A winter storm with strong winds and ice build up can knock out power for an indefinite amount of time.

Make a Plan

What will you need to survive if the power is out for days?

What will you need to survive if you are trapped in your house or apartment for days?

What will you need to survive if temperatures drop well below zero?

If you already have a survival kit or bug out bag for yourself and your family, you may only need to add a few items.

If not, here's a list to get you started or you can buy a ">premade kit designed for cold weather.

Extreme Cold Weather Survival Kit:


Blankets (Consider buying some emergency heater blankets. They look and feel somewhat like tin foil and hold body heat)

First aid supplies.


Special needs like diapers and baby formula.

Battery powered radio. (One of the most crucial elements of a survival kit)

Flashlights and a battery powered lantern with enough power to light up an entire room.

Battery powered clock.

Spare batteries.

Jugs of water.

Pet Food.

Something to heat food with no power, like sterno.

Extra warm clothes.

Non-perishable food. Stock up on items like protein bars which do not have to be heated.

An alternative source of heat. This can be an electric space heater with automatic shutoff, a fireplace or a fuel powered heater. (If you are burning any type of fuel indoors, it is CRITICAL to have a carbon monoxide detector. Every year, thousands of people are poisoned, sometimes fatally, by CO emissions. CO monitors are inexpensive and should be in every home)

More Staying Warm Tips

If you use home heating fuel in your furnace, keep a couple of jerry cans of diesel on hand. (not regular gas)

Its not recommended for regular use, but it can keep your furnace going for a few days if fuel trucks can't get to you.

If the temperature in your house drops below zero, open the taps slightly so the water keeps running and the pipes don't freeze up.

Keep a close eye on infants and the elderly who's body temperatures can drop rapidly. They are more are risk for hypothermia.

Keep your gas tank full in case you need to get into your running car for warmth. Never run a vehicle in an enclosed space like a garage.

Make sure your car is winterized so it will start in cold weather.

If you are using an electric space heater gather in a small room where the heating process will be more effective. Space heaters are not designed to warm large areas.

Do not use fuel powered heaters in enclosed spaces. Even if you are using them in a larger space,  make sure you have a CO detector in the area.

Don't forget to eat. You body burns a lot of calories trying to stay warm.

Dress in layers and keep your head covered to preserve body heat.



Oct 5, 2012 6:20pm
Hi--Good article--I was raised in both Colorado and Wyoming so I know about cold weather,
I can recall blinding, Wyoming snow storms wherein we had to tie a rope to the house door that extended to the outhouse as one could get lost in the weather within 30 or 40 feet.
Thanks for the memories--2 BIG thumbs up
Oct 23, 2012 12:44pm
This is great advice for anyone living in potentially very cold areas, especially for those who live in isolation - I endured a couple of decades in Alberta's 40 below temperatures and found, if the wind was unkind enough to blow, even breathing became difficult - I admire those who endure 60 below or more, especially if the main heat source goes down - a definite thumbs up - I hope those affected take heed - B.
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