For much of the country, winter brings more than a few potential hazards. Frigid temperatures make being outside for even short periods of time perilous. Snow and ice wreak havoc on the roads as well as lead to power outages. Fortunately, due advances in technology and such, major winter storms rarely ever happen just out of the blue. Weather forecasters are able to give us actually quite a bit of advance warning, often at least a couple of days.
If you live in an area that regularly experiences winter storms, your first line of defense is to pay attention to weather predictions. Make it a habit to listen to weather reports each morning or evening, or at least surf over to The Weather Channel online and check their forecasts. None of their predictions are going to be perfectly on the money, of course, but they are at least in the ballpark more often than not when it comes to low temperatures and snowfall measurements.
Invest in a decent quality snow shovel or snow blower. Most homeowners have these on hand already but it pays to inspect them in the fall and make sure they are up to snuff. Shovels, in particular, will often crack over time. With snow blowers, start them up and make sure they are running properly before you truly need them. While you’re at the store picking up a new shovel or something for the blower, pick up a few bags of sidewalk salt.
If you aren’t really capable of doing heavy snow removal yourself, whether due to health or you just plain don’t want to do it anymore, arrange for snow removal services ahead of time. This might just mean getting a hold of a local teenager and negotiating a fair price for clearing your driveway and sidewalk. Whether you go that route or hire someone with a plow, it pays to do this before the snow falls because by then, they’ll be swamped with calls.
If you are likely to be at work or otherwise away from home when the snow hits, be sure you have plenty of emergency supplies in your vehicle. These include: blanket, extra hat and gloves, salt or cat litter for traction, charger for your cell phone, jumper cables, bottle or two of water, a few snacks, and a flashlight (crank powered so no batteries to worry about). It is a good idea to let someone know when you are heading home so they know when to expect you to arrive. If you’re not there in a reasonable amount of time, accounting for road conditions, they can let someone know to look for you. You might also want to review our winter driving tips here.
At home, you preppers should already have plenty of supplies on hand to weather the storm, no pun intended. However, review your stockpiles and make sure you’re up to snuff on everything. At least enough food and water to sustain your family for a few days, in case the roads are such that you can’t safely travel. Basic first aid kit, including routinely needed over the counter meds like antacids, pain relievers, and the like. Muscle ache ointment might be a good investment if you’ll be doing a fair amount of snow removal. Flashlights with plenty of batteries, as well as candles and/or oil lamps (with fuel and extra wicks), for power outages. Board games, books, and other diversions to occupy your time until power is restored.
While you shouldn’t need to run to the store like the rest of the hordes, you might consider picking up some snacks and comfort foods like chips, popcorn, hot cocoa mix, and such. I’m telling you, nothing beats sipping a hot cup of cocoa while watching the snow fall, especially at night.
You probably have plenty of blankets in your home already, so buying more shouldn’t be necessary. However, if they’ve been in storage for a while, you might consider running them through the dryer to fluff them up a bit. That’s hard to do if the power goes out.
If you have a fireplace or wood stove, make sure they are cleaned out and ready to go. You did have your chimney swept recently, right? Trudging through snow drifts to the wood pile isn’t fun so you might consider bringing in a small supply. We have a spot in our attached garage set up for wood storage. It holds enough to last a couple of days and keeps us from having to hook up sled dogs to keep the fire stoked.
Keeping warm without a fireplace or stove is doable, if you’re smart about it. First, keep the family in one room as much as possible. Each person’s body heat will add to the collective warmth in the room. Huddle together under blankets, don’t be shy. Hang blankets over the windows and doorways to reduce drafts.
Winter storms can be dangerous. But, being prepared for them reduces your risks considerably.