Friday, January 25

How to prepare for a winter storm

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 food 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, such as cans of soup, eggs, cheese and bread or tortillas, and meats that can be pan-fried or stir-fried.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Be sure that you have plenty of blankets readily accessible. You don't want to be hunting around in your attic when it's 10 degrees outside and the power is off. 
  • Run your heater now while you have power.  Get your house nice and toasty while you can.  If there are drafty spots in your house, block them off as much as possible.  
  • Plan what parts of your house you can block off if you do lose power.  For instance, you may want to have everyone sleep in the one or two warmest rooms in the house.  If you have an air mattress, you may want to go ahead and inflate it in case you need to use it.

Consider your lighting situation

  • Be sure to have candles, oil-burning lamps, and flashlights on hand and easily accessible. 
  • Make sure you have plenty of matches for lighting candles and lamps.
  • Stock up on 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. 
  • Without power, you won't have internet access, so be prepared.  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.  
  • 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.).  

Consider your attitude.

If you're prepared, being stuck at home can actually be kind of fun, but a bad attitude can kill the joy. We're accustomed to our conveniences and electronic distractions, so a good attitude about going without them is important. This would be 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!

One last thing: just imagine what a winter storm means for those who are less fortunate than you. Now would be a great time to make a donation to a homeless shelter in your area. Even the smallest donation can make a big difference to a ministry where tight budgets are stretched even tighter by great need.  

What's your best tip for preparing for a power outage?  Please share!

**I'm joining Amanda at Serenity Now for her Weekend Bloggy Reading party.**


  1. Great advice. We had ice this morning but still have power. No one is traveling as roads are very hazardous. This is hubby's day off so all is well. We have a jigsaw puzzle, computers and fireplace....Homemade chicken and dumplings and cornbread for supper. Beautiful snowy pics..Blessings!

  2. Hi there. This is all such great advice! Unfortunately, I'm spending most of the time stressed about work, having to leave the office early since school closed, etc. But some lovely hot chocolate with marshmallows sounds absolutely delicious. And it is certainly good to have an adequate supply of necessities like food and toilet paper! Whew! Stay warm and safe.

  3. I have to admit, I laughed - Being I now live in Iowa. But, I also grew up in the south, was living in Raleigh for the Ice Storm of 2002, and I remember what a complete wreck everything was! There were areas that looked like a bomb had gone off. Great advice! :) Hope y'all get pretty snow, instead of ice!

  4. Hey Richella, I am near Winston Salem, so not all that far from where you live. I don't remember how I found you, but am so glad that I did. Raleigh was my home for a while as a child. I lived on Yadkin Drive for about five years and went to Brooks Elementary School. Good memories there. I'm not even sure if our house is still there.
    Us southerners do go into sort of a panic, don't we? However, I don't go to the stores anytime remotely close to when bad weather is predicted, if I can help it. :o)
    One of the things that's helped us out in an ice storm power outtage has been tacking up blankets over the doorways of rooms that have fireplaces or woodstoves going. It helps to retain the heat to that room.
    I enjoy your blog very much, and so nice to "meet" you.

  5. Oh, wow, Richella--that is a thorough list!
    I am sharing it with my peeps on FaceBook, thank you.
    I need to go get a shower and grind my coffee beans!
    I have never read a blog post with this info before and it is good!
    Here in Greenville, SC, we have sleet and ice tonight. Still have power and a gas log fireplace to stay warm. But, I will be preparing things over the next few days, as I wouldn't be surprised if more ice comes...
    Love you!
    Stay warm.

  6. I live up north now and these are excellent tips for us all. Thanks!

  7. All good tips, even for us Canadians. We have had some very cold weather here lately, as low as -40C at night. What does that convert to, you say? lol...-40F !! Some of my cold water pipes have frozen. If you are getting a decent cold spell, let your taps drip a bit to keep the water moving. I couldn't do that with one of our toilets or with the washing machine and they froze up. Not to worry, a 'warm' spell is on it's way. May even get above freezing for a day next week. If the pipes don't burst, they will thaw out just fine (again). Stay warm!

  8. Good tips! Luckily our winter has been quite mild. I do try to keep a few easy meals and snacks stored away in a different closet, just in case we get lots of snow or ice and can't get to the store. We have a box in a kitchen cabinet with all of our emergency flashlights, batteries, and candles. We lose power when it is spring/Tornado season!

  9. This is a great article. Those cold winter months are soon approaching so it is a good idea to start getting prepared. I always think it is a good idea to make sure your hot water heater is working properly. It would be terrible to get stuck with no hot water when it gets cold. It is definitely a good idea to get water heater repair services if you need it. They can make sure your machine is working properly and get you the parts if it needs fixed.

  10. My best tip for a power outage: get a generator. We have flooded so many times and have "re-remodeled" our basement four times, so several years ago we screamed, "Enough!" We finally bit the bullet and bought a whole-house generator, and it's wonderful! I know it's not a great solution for you all this week, but if your power goes out on a regular basis and it's a threat to your home, a generator is a great solution.

    I'll be thinking of you as this storm rolls through!

  11. Great ideas! We just survived the winter storm in SC. Thankfully we didn't lose power! Saving for the future! Thanks!


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