We're under a winter weather advisory here in North Carolina, with forecasts for a "wintry mix" of precipitation. It's been very cold here the last few days, so if the predicted precipitation arrives, things could get messy.
Having lived through many, many snow storms and ice storms, I thought I'd share some tips for weathering a storm as comfortably as possible.
If you're expecting a snow storm, your main concern is simply to make sure you're stocked up on things so that you can be comfortable staying at home. Stop by the library and the Redbox for books and movies. Along with milk and bread, make sure you have plenty of food in the pantry and refrigerator. You'll also want to be sure that you have a good supply of other necessities in case you're snowed in, such as:
- toilet paper and Kleenex
- personal health and hygiene products
- household supplies
- OTC and prescription drugs
- first aid supplies
- pet food and supplies
- salt for the front steps
Trust me, a snowstorm is not the time to discover that you're out of deodorant or saline solution or dog food. And be sure to have marshmallows for making hot chocolate and the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies--you may be stuck at home a while, and you want to be comfortable.
You folks from the North are now snorting and guffawing, finding it difficult to imagine anyone being concerned about an impending snow storm. But you see, here in the South, our cities and towns are not equipped to deal with snow. We just don't have the heavy equipment that y'all have up North. Y'all are used to having the streets plowed and salted right after the snow. Our towns are lucky if they own one plow. So if there's a big snow, some of us will be stuck at home until the weather heats up enough for the snow to melt.
Still, the prospect of a snow storm brings mostly warm, fuzzy thoughts of making snow angels and snowmen and snow ice cream. . . rosy cheeks and red noses and purple-tipped fingers and giggling and sleeping well at night after playing hard during the day.
An ice storm is a different matter. If ice is what you're expecting, then you should also be expecting a power outage. A few years ago we had a big ice storm and were without electric power for six days and six very cold nights. If a power outage is a reasonable expectation, here are some things you can do to prepare.
Consider your cooking situation. If you have a gas cooktop, you're golden. Be sure to have matches and/or an Aim'n'Flame so that you can light the burners manually. Make sure you have food that can be prepared on the stovetop, not in the oven. Keep a manual can opener on hand. If your stove is electric, consider other options for cooking. If you have a camp stove, pull it out. If you have a grill, be sure to have charcoal or propane on hand. And be sure to have filling food that doesn't require any cooking. Cold people are often hungry people, so stock up on things like nuts, peanut butter, tuna, dried beef, etc.
Consider your heating situation. If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, be sure you have plenty of wood. Bring wood into a sheltered area now--before it gets wet. If you have a gas-burning fireplace, make sure you know how to light it manually. If you have a kerosene heater, be sure that you have plenty of kerosene on hand. And be sure that you have plenty of blankets readily accessible. Believe me, you don't want to be hunting around in your attic when it's 10 degrees outside and the power is off.
Consider your lighting situation. Be sure to have candles, matches, oil-burning lamps, and flashlights on hand and easily accessible. Keep plenty of extra batteries. If you have a camping lantern, bring it inside now.
Consider your water situation. If your water supply depends on electricity, be sure you have plenty of water on hand. Fill jugs and bottles with potable water. Fill your bathtub with water. Toilets will operate as long as there's water with which to fill the tanks. If need be, you can always keep your toilet running smoothly by refilling the tank with water from the bathtub.
Consider all other electrical needs. If you're dependent on electricity for something, do it now while you've got power. Do the laundry. Run the dishwasher. Put some brownies in the oven, a roast in the Crock Pot, and bread makings in the bread machine. Fully charge cell phones, laptop computers, electronic games, camera batteries, etc. Wash and blow-dry your hair. Grind your coffee beans. Print out anything that you might need that you usually look up online, such as phone numbers (including the number of your power company, so that you can call to report your power failure) and recipes. You might also want to print out some things to keep children occupied: word searches, crossword puzzles, Sodoku puzzles, mazes, pictures to color, etc. And if you have a non-electric version of something, make sure it's readily accessible (corded phone for your land line, French press for your coffee, etc.).
If you're prepared, being stuck at home can actually be kind of fun. It's a great time to read aloud the Little House books or biographies of people like Abraham Lincoln or the soldiers at Valley Forge. It's an opportunity to pull out those board games that have been collecting dust. Just be sure you have a print dictionary to use for that killer game of Scrabble! And it's a wonderful chance to reflect on how dependent we might be on our electronic distractions. Like blog reading.
Oh, wait, that's not a distraction. That's a necessity.
What's your best tip for preparing for a power outage? Please share!