In January 2008, a Utah couple Thomas and Tamitha Garner, along with their dog Medusa, set out for a drive in a remote area of Southwest Utah to photograph wild horses in Modena Canyon. Before heading out, they alerted family members of their plans and stopped in Panaca, Nevada for gas and two boxes of granola bars.
They planned to be out only for the day, wearing only jeans, light coats and sneakers.
There were warning signs on the road to Modena Canyon. However, they saw another car on the road and figured it would be fine. The couple ended up further down into the canyon than they probably should have been when a severe winter storm came through. Thomas says the snow got too high and he was unable to turn the truck around to get out. Realizing they were stuck, the couple decided to ride out the storm by staying inside the vehicle.
With no way to communicate, the Garners played games on an iPad and rationed the little food and water they had, periodically turning on the truck for heat. Conditions were so bad the hood of the truck was barely visible from the snow pile up and by 6:30 in the evening, the windows had already frozen shut.
After spending 10 days in the truck the couple was down to one granola bar, two frozen bottles of water and had started sharing Medusa’s dog food. Figuring they had to do something, the two decided to hoof it out. Tom, remembering a survival show he had watched on TV, fashioned snowshoes out of the truck’s seat cushions and some bungee cord. He led the way out, while Tamitha followed in his path—sometimes having to crawl because the snow was so deep.
At night, to stay warm, Tom and Tamitha gathered wood and made fires using a lighter, matches, deodorant, and a spray can of carburetor fluid. To stay hydrated the couple ate melting snow.
After two days of hiking, the couple came across a snowplow clearing roads outside Hamlin Valley, Utah. An area hospital found Tom and Tamitha suffered from dehydration, blisters, slight muscle break down and minor frostbite. None of their injuries were permanent, nor did their ordeal cause any long-term health effects.
For nearly a month, we have been learning how to prep for winter weather. If you have been keeping up, you will be able to point out where the couple went wrong, or what the couple did right. If you need a refresher, read the following 30 Days of Preparing for Severe Winter Weather posts:
- Is snow safe to eat?
- 10 Safety rules for staying in your car
- Building a fire in the snow
- Staying hydrated
- How to prevent and treat hypothermia
- Making a cold weather kit
- Build an emergency kit for your car
- Buy a NOAA weather alert radio
- Educate yourself—what are the different types of severe winter weather?
- The best ways to stay warm during late season hunts
- What to do if you run off the road