Prepare for Winter Storms
Ah, winter storms. Remember when Texas froze, and nobody was prepared? People found a lot of creative solutions, but it was bad.
Don’t be caught out when the next 100- or 500-year weather event hits.
Dress for the weather. Dress in layers. Even if you are going to work, or an event, bring a winter coat and boots that you could put on if you were to get stranded.
Interested in preparedness? Check out Are You Prepared, Mama? at areyoupreparedmama.com – I’ve been reading her blog since I got interested in emergency food storage several years ago.
Prepare for storms and outages
We can prepare our homes to hold up better under storm conditions.
Whether you own or rent, consider the following:
Insulation for winter storms
Increase the R-value. Adding a layer of insulation to windows is something anyone can do with a kit like this one.
R-value or resistance value is the measure of any insulation's ability to slow the flow of heat. The higher or greater the R-value, the better the insulation will perform at maintaining a comfortable living space and helping to save homeowners on their annual energy costs. (source- tapinsulation.com)
For homeowners, there a number of more expensive options for increased insulation in attics and walls, as well as heat pumps and geothermal measures.
Weather stripping: if you can see light around the door frame, a draft can get in. Insulate doors by adding weather stripping.
Alternate light sources
I do keep a stash of emergency candles and candle holders, lighters and matches. I would really rather use a camping lantern or flashlight, which I also have.
- Tough matches
- Camping lantern
- Big flashlight
- Manually rechargeable flashlight with NOAA radio
- Plug in recharging flashlight emergency light
Heating sources for winter storms
With layered clothing, sleeping bag, and/or pup tent in the living room, you can stay warm enough to survive without heat, but not necessarily comfortably. Low cost option.
Most fireplaces are really for decoration and are incredibly inefficient as a heating source.
However, this is the only safe way to have a fire burning indoors. Fire and smoke can hurt you. Carbon monoxide will hurt you. A properly maintained chimney and ventilation are absolutely essential.
Install a wood burner insert (also called wood stove insert or fireplace insert) in a wood-burning fireplace to use firewood as a more viable back up heating source. I recommend professional installation as well as communicating with your insurer.
Have an alternate cooking plan
If you have a propane grill out back, you’ve got this covered, as long as you have a way to use it. Maybe pick up an extra propane tank, too.
If not, consider a camping stove, but remember this should never be used inside.
Remember to cook perishable food first.
The quick and easy option here for peace of mind is to get a box of MREs and throw it in the back of the pantry.
Not ideal, but better than nothing if you’re just getting started.
You have to have food stocked up to have something to cook, too.
Water: a fan favorite for drinking, washing, and staying clean
Gallon jugs of water: A gallon per person per day, if running water from the faucet is out.
Bottled water: I like aluminum bottles for longer-term storage and recyclability.
Water filters: But, keep in mind that in winter, water sources of all kinds will tend to freeze which makes them unusable without the input of quite a lot of thermal energy. And that heat has to come from somewhere.
Life Straw (small affordable filters, with a pitcher version)
Big Berkey (big expensive filters, in various sizes)
If you don’t currently have any emergency water, the cheap and easy start is to pick up a couple of cases of plastic water bottles next time you grocery shop. A box of baby wipes is the easy, quick prep for general hygiene.
Gatorade mix, instant coffee, etc. will boost morale in the event that you actually have to use to use the emergency water.
Did I mention the weather radio?
We forget sometimes that internet wasn’t always available, and might not be available if systems are damaged by winter storms.
Walkie-talkies are also nice to have if cell phones die at a bad time.
When a storm hits without warning
Back up shelter (yes!)
We can pack a car kit to keep in the trunk during winter. Sheltering in your vehicle is not a great long-term plan, but having some water, granola bars, a mylar blanket, and some road reflectors can make being stranded for a short time a lot more comfortable.
In a similar vein, clean dry clothing, blankets, and towels will greatly improve your comfort if you are wet, muddy, and cold.
In my opinion, the best back up shelter is being able to go to a friend or family member’s house down the road.
If a tree fell on your house, the power is out, or the plumbing is out of order, option one is relocating temporarily.
Another reason why this is a good initial strategy? Most emergencies are highly localized.
For example, if that tree fell on your house. It’s a big problem, but it doesn’t affect the next building over, much less the next street.
However, I think it is nice to have a camping tent or other back up plan in mind as well. If you have a camper or cabin situation, you are already way ahead of the rest of us.
Books, and more books. Puzzles, games, projects. Musical instruments.
Giving the cat or dog some extra attention.
In fairness, a lot of us got really good at this sort of thing during the lockdowns of 2020. Just keep in mind that without electricity there are no streaming services.
Winter storms can have a lot of unexpected effects
Depending on the type of storm (wind, precipitation, ice) the electric grid, phones, or internet may be affected.
After the storm, infrastructure damage needs repair. Downed trees block roads. Ice impairs travel. Hopefully, the items listed above meet some of those needs.