How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

 

I know this post is WAY late for those of you in the east who recently dealt with some severe winter weather (the picture above is actually from my friend Julie‘s house in PA recently).  I’m actually hoping that those of you on the east will jump in and comment here.  I’d love your first hand knowledge.

We are expecting a bit of a storm here where I am at for the next couple of days.  Since our house is new I wanted to be sure I’d done what I could to be prepared.

So, I did a bit a research and I thought I’d share it with you here.  Most all of us will face some type of severe winter weather in our lives.  Even if you don’t live where it snows, you may travel somewhere that does.  One of the biggest risks from big winter storms is their ability to knock out your power, heat and communication services.  With a bad storm, this can sometimes last for days.

Here are a few tips for you if you expect you may face any crazy storms this winter:

 

When Is It Serious?

There are four different types of winter storm warning that you may get via the news, radio, weather channel etc.  It is important to know the difference.  Here are the definitions from the Red Cross:

Winter Storm Outlook – Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2 to 5 days.

Winter Weather Advisory – Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.

Winter Storm Watch – Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.

Winter Storm Warning – Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately.

Right now, where I am at, there is a Winter Storm Warning out for the next 15 hours or so.

 

What to Prepare Before….WAY Before

  • Make sure you have a 3 day supply of water (3 gallons per person) and easy to prepare food.  Here is my favorite 72 hour no-prep food kit.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio so you can stay aware of the situation if your other communication sources are cut off.  Make sure it is battery operated adn that you have extra batteries.
  • Make sure you have a good shovel.  You may need to dig yourself out before help gets there.  Or you simply may need to dig out your car!
  • Purchase a supply of flashlights (with batteries) and candles.
  • Clean and inspect your chimney if you have one.  Make sure you have a supply of wood.
  • Make sure you have an ample supply of blankets.  If you power goes out, you will need as many as you can get!
  • Clear rain gutters and repair roof leaks.
  • Have an alternate way of cooking.  A small “camp stove” works well for short term emergencies.  You may also consider a butane stove,  or this quickfire stove etc.  Make sure that whatever you choose that you have enough fuel.  Cook in a well ventilated garage (like with the door open) to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in your home.  The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increasing during winter storms as people turn to alternate heat sources.
  • Learn how to care for frostbite and hypothermia.  Make sure you click on those links and print those out NOW in case your power goes out during a storm.
  • Weather strip any drafty doors or windows.
  • Purchase rock salt (or something similar) to help you keep walkways safe.
  • Install good winter tires on your car and make sure the wipers work well.
  • Make sure you have fire extinguishers in your home and that everyone knows how to use them.  House fires are much more common during winter storms as people turn to alternate heat sources.
  • Consider purchasing a good supply of heat packs.
  • Consider purchasing a kerosene heater.  Make sure it is legal in your area.

 

What to Prepare Before….Days Before

  • Fill your gas tank.  This will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Check your supplies of flashlights, lanterns etc.  Make sure they are easily accessible.
  • Charge your cell phones and other electronics.
  • Pull out any generators / large battery backups that you have.  DO NOT use a gas generator indoors.
  • Check antifreeze levels in your car.
  • Make sure all adults in your house know how to shut of your main water valve in case your pipes burst.
  • If you will be separated from family members, make sure you know where they are before the storm and where / when you will meet up after.
  • Make sure you know how to manually operate your electric garage door.

What to do During:

  • If temperatures are extremely low (below 25 Fahrenheit), turn on every faucet so that it is just barely dripping.  This will cost you a bit more in your water bill, but save you an expensive and time consuming mess if your pipes freeze.
  • Open kitchen and sink cabinets to allow warmer water to circulate around the pipes.  You can also wrap them in newspaper to help insulate them.
  • Keep your thermostat set as high during the night as you have it during the day to avoid pipes freezing.
  • Avoid driving.  If you must drive, make certain you have emergency supplies in your car.
  • Keep your radio nearby and listen for updates.
  • Stay Dry!  Change your clothes immediately if you get wet.
  • Use Flashlights before candles to avoid the risk of house fire.
  • If your pipes freeze, warm them with a hair dryer.  If you do not have power, wrap them in rags. Then, open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold.
  • Use WD-40 on your snow shovel to make shoveling easier.
  • If the power goes out, put towels at the bottoms of doors that have gaps and cover single paned or drafty windows with blankets.  Close doors to un-needed rooms.
  • Again, if your power is out, especially for an extended time, dress in layers.  Put on tights and / or long underwear if you have it as the bottom layer and then add on more loose fitting, light weight clothing in lots of layers after that.  Mittens are warmer than gloves.  End with a tight pair of warm socks and a hoodie.  Keeping your head and feet warm is essential.  You can also cover your mouth with a scarf.  Also, EAT!  This will help your body produce more heat.
  • Have your entire family get in the same bed if possible to share warmth.  Grab some books and stay under the covers as much as possible!  Don’t let that heat out!
  • If an extended power outage is expected, put frozen food outside and refrigerated food in the garage.  These will likely be colder than your fridge (without power) after a day or so.
  • Unplug any important electrical equipment to avoid a surge when power is restored.
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  1. Caitlin says:

    Great tips! I am going through my first full 26 week cycle to put together my 72-hr kits for our home, but as winter weather is sinking in here in Minnesota, I’ve been doing additional research and planning for winter car survival. One of the most important things I was looking for was how to have drinking water available…clearly it will freeze if stored in my car and eating snow lowers your body temperature very quickly. The best recomendations I found were to 1) put a cooler with H2O in it before a car trip in winter weather 2) have something to melt snow with for drinking. I have heat cells that I figure I could melt snow over, so I just plan to get a sauce pan at a thrift store to keep in my winter kit. Additionally, I think the heat cells will be really great for keeping the inside of the car warm since they are safe for use indoors! I hadn’t thought much about preparing my home, besides stocking up on food and water, so thanks for the great info!

  2. Carla says:

    I always make sure to keep a good supply of the animal feed we need. Also I always freeze extra bread and some type of sandwich meat. We have a gas stove so I can cook on the top and the wood stove, but paper products are great to have on hand if the power is out. We are fortunite enough to have a generator that provides for most of our needs but only run it if the electric is out for a long time. We enjoy a day or two with out electric, it gives us all a good dose of appreciation for what we have on a daily basis. This is a great list you put together. If you use oil lamps don’t forget to have extra oil on hand and wicks.

    • Misty says:

      Yes, so true! Extra oil and wicks would be essential. And I have a few too many paper products. They are helpful even when the power isn’t out. (-: Sorry for my late response!

  3. Heather says:

    I need to stock up on flashlights again (my kids keep taking them and loosing them). One thing this article made me think about was emergency cooking. A few years ago we had a super bad winter storm and people were with out power for a while. Quite a few people tried to bring their BBQ grill inside and cook on that. There were a few close calls with carbon monoxide poisoning, but gratefully no deaths. It make me worry about using any emergency stove with a flame inside. . I’m thinking adding a flame less heater like the Kindle Cook would be a great way to keep your family eating hot food and keep them safe.