How to Be Ready for Winter Disasters

By David

January 8, 2014   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

The winter of 2014 is shaping up to be one of the coldest in recent memory, with temperatures falling to record lows even in the deep South and as much as a foot of snow falling on the Midwest.

If you haven’t already been hit by freezing cold and all the problems that go with it, it’s time to get prepared.

Here are some of the things to do in order to be ready for freezing temperatures and snow.

Insulate your home.

Hopefully, you’ve already taken steps to properly insulate your home and save on heating bills, but there’s more you can do to keep the heat inside (and the cold outside) when temperatures fall to dangerous levels. Stuff towels around and under outside doors to keep cold winds out. Pile extra blankets on the beds to stay warm without using more heat.

Stay connected.
There’s no way to predict if or when you’ll lose phone or Internet service after a storm. If lines go down, it can take workers weeks to repair the damage. Make sure you have a cellphone that works well and get an extra battery or two so it will stay charged even if you lose power. Check Amazon or eBay for less expensive generic batteries.

Prepare for power outages.
Stock up on heavy-duty flashlights and their batteries. Distribute them around the house so there will be one nearby if the power goes out suddenly. Avoid opening the door to the refrigerator and freezer any more than necessary to slow down spoilage of food. Have a battery-powered radio on hand. If you live in an area that suffers from crippling storms practically every winter, consider investing in a gas-powered portable generator. Models can be purchased for $500 to $1,200 at home stores and chains like Sears.

Have the proper tools.
If you live in snow country, you should always have a shovel for digging out of those drifts around the house. A gas-powered snow blower will also come in handy for clearing a path.

Protect the animals.
Our furry and feathered friends get cold, too, so be sure to make sure they’re taken care of. Keep bird feeders filled in case it’s too difficult for them to find food in the snow. Bring all pets inside, even those that usually stay in a doghouse or barn. Dogs should go out only long enough to do their business, and should be wearing a warm sweater when they do!

Keep your gas tank full.
When you hear that inclement weather is heading your way, fill up all your family’s vehicles with gas. This saves time if you need to evacuate your area and makes sure you don’t run out while sitting in hours of traffic.

Keep your car ready.
Having your car break down on a warm spring day is bad enough, but a breakdown on a cold winter night can be deadly. Ahead of the worst winter weather, have your car checked by a reliable mechanic and get any potential problems repaired. Also, replace any dirty filters and have your cooling system serviced. Have your battery checked and get a new one if necessary. Replace worn wiper blades—they’re going to see a lot of action when your windshield ices over. Also replace any burned out bulbs or fuses. Have the brakes and transmission checked before you need to drive on icy roads. Tires should be checked for wear and worn ones replaced.

Be sure to keep an emergency kit in the trunk of your car with necessities like a flashlight with extra batteries, flares, shovel and tire chains. A bag of sand or kitty litter could come in handy on slick roads, plus pack gloves, extra boots and blankets. Keep an extra cellphone charger in the glove compartment, and it’s a good idea to have bottled water and protein snacks.

Stock up on groceries.
A snowstorm could keep you and your family stuck in your home with no power and no way of getting out for an indefinite period of time. Make sure you have emergency provisions and if you can, make a last minute trip to the store for essentials. Along with staples like bottled water, pet food and toilet paper, you’ll need foods like milk, cheese, bread and canned goods—lots of canned goods. Be sure you have a manual or battery-powered can opener and condiments like ketchup and mustard that don’t require refrigeration. Avoid getting too many perishables except for fruits and vegetables that don’t spoil quickly and need little preparation. If there’s a baby or toddler in the family, be sure to get plenty of diapers, baby food, formula and the other necessities a little one will need. Protein bars, crackers and nuts are nutritious snacks that keep well. Canned soups, stews and chili are cold weather favorites, provided you have a way to heat them up, so if you have a butane camp stove, this is the time to use it!

Dress warmly.
The best way to stay warm when it’s cold is to stay inside. Unfortunately, this isn’t always practical, since the front walk won’t shovel itself. When you do have to venture out into the snowy cold, here are a few ways to stay warm.

Wear mittens rather than gloves, because your fingers will feel warmer with the skin-to-skin contact. Choose wool or polypropylene socks rather than cotton ones, as cotton tends to hold moisture. Your ears, cheeks and nose are most vulnerable to frostbite, so protect them with a hat, hood, muffler and/or earmuffs. Layers can trap heat and keep you warmer, so pile a sweater over a thermal top and a tee shirt. Pick a coat with an outer layer that resists wind and weather.

Prepare to evacuate.
The moment when the police knock on your door and tell you that you must leave is not the time to be getting your stuff together. Have a plan ahead of time for where to go and notify loved ones where they can contact you in case of an emergency evacuation. Keep your wallet with credit and debit cards, cellphone and keys in one bag where you can grab them quickly. Have pet carriers where you can get to them quickly.

Never underestimate the power of winter weather. The brutal storm that blew in during the first days of 2014 has already killed more than a dozen people and left thousands without power. Being prepared for more winter storms could save your life!

Written on 1/8/2014 by Linda Cauthen.

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