A missing 10-year-old girl survived an overnight blizzard in Russia by cuddling with a stray dog for warmth. Identified as Vika Z, police say the child got lost half a mile from her house when a sudden blizzard started while she was walking home from school. She lives in the town of Uglegorsk, located on Russia’s largest island, Sakhalin.
Temperatures plunged to 12°F and the blizzard conditions lowered visibility to practically zero. Her mother called the police when Vika didn’t return home from school on time, and a search party comprised largely of volunteers was dispatched to search the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the snow continued to fall, amounting to two feet deep and drifts up to first floor windows in some areas.
Vika was found the next morning, 18 hours after she first went missing. She survived the night by hugging a fluffy stray dog she found. The two were lying on a mattress under a balcony that had been placed there for stray dogs. Vika was taken to a hospital and found to have mild frostbite. Locals plan to honor the stray dog, but it has gone missing.
Vika’s survival and the stray dog’s help were nothing short of miraculous. But, what should you do if you’re caught in a blizzard? Here are a few tips for surviving a snowstorm if you’re lost in the outdoors.
- Stop moving. Once you realize you are truly lost, the best thing to do is take shelter and prepare for the upcoming night, when the temperature drops and the risk of hypothermia becomes real.
- If it’s possible and safe, leave an SOS note. If you can, find an open spot and write SOS with rocks or sticks. Or, tie a brightly colored piece of clothing (if you can spare one you don’t need for warmth) to a nearby tree trunk where searchers might see it.
- Take cover from the storm. Snow caves are the best form of shelter, but they are time-consuming and difficult to make. Try to create something quicker and easier that will block the wind, which is more dangerous than the falling snow. Prop branches, large bushes, or other material up against a solid object like a tree trunk or cliff to create a lean-to that blocks the wind. Don’t work so hard that you sweat, though, because that will likely freeze later and could cause hypothermia.
- Start a fire if you can. Matches get wet and you might not be able to find dry, burnable wood after building your shelter. If you aren’t able to build a fire for warmth, you can huddle inside your coat to conserve your own body heat. Pull your hands inside and place them under your armpits to additional warmth.
Do you have any additional tips for surviving a blizzard outdoors? If so, leave them in the comments below. Or, share your winter snowstorm survival story. We’d love to read about how others survived the elements.