Winter Storms Mar 14,2019

Event Duration Dimensions ( 3 Days )

Winter Storms


I was surprised to see that we had not specifically done an article for winter storms.  Having grown up in Minnesota, perhaps it was almost normal to me.  Prepping for a winter storm can be similar in many aspects to other weather events but with the “Bomb Cyclone” raging through central states, let’s review some specific requirements of surviving a winter storm.

Normally a winter storm is best handled by Bugging In.

1-Stay off the road if you can:  with high winds, blowing snow and freezing temperatures, it is best to avoid travel if possible.  A car can keep you warm while the engine is running but if you slide into a snowbank or off the road and get stuck, you might regret your decision to travel in the storm.  And even if you have winterized your vehicle, have snow tires and chains and are an experienced driver in the snow or ice – there are a whole bunch of other people on the road who frankly may be a danger to everyone else. 

2-Be ready if your car gets stuck:  But if you have to travel, make sure your car is equipped for the possibility you get stranded.  Have plenty of chemical hand warmers in the glove box, some heavy blankets, insulated bivy bags or sleeping bags (enough for everyone in the vehicle).  You will also need to have some means of marking your vehicle along the road to warn other drivers that you are stuck (they may be able to help you out but at a minimum you don’t want them to crash into you because they didn’t see you).

3-Dress for the weather:  Everyone should have the appropriate cold weather gear to walk to safety if the car gets stuck:  boots, hats, gloves and of course layered garments to keep you dry and warm (usually an inner layer that wicks moisture away from your body, a thermal layer to trap heat, and a shell to keep out the wind or snow).  Just remember to adjust your layers for your level of activity – sweat and damp clothes are you enemy – you may have to open up when moving and then bundle up when you stop.  Also remember that exposed flesh can freeze quickly if wind is blowing over you.  Even light winds reduce the effective temperature by ten degrees or more.  And if the effective temperature (adjusted for wind chill) gets around -20 F, you could get frostbite on exposed skin in 30 minutes or less.

4-Prep your home:  you should have winterized your house in the fall.  Covered up outside spigots (which can wick heat out of the home) caulked up cracks around windows and doors, replaced weather stripping and door sweeps, and put in the storm windows (or installed thermal windows or doors or those 3M plastic window insulation kits), added insulation, etc.  I will assume you did some of these things.

Protect your water pipes – nothing that would ruin your day quicker than if the pipes burst inside your home.  This catastrophe could make your home uninhabitable during the storm forcing your out into the cold.  In severe cold weather, open up the faucets just a little to keep water flowing and not freezing in your pipes.

5-Alternate heat source:  if the power goes out, your home will still keep you out of the wind and hopefully the wet.  But I hope you have an alternate heat source.  Ideally this would be some type of wood burning stove or fireplace.  You can use small stoves or candles to generate some heat but you have to be careful about having enough ventilation so you don’t end up with carbon monoxide poisoning.   But if you don’t have an alternate means of heating the home, you can reduce the amount of space that your bodies have to heat by shutting off rooms and lining surfaces with blankets.  And be ready to share body heat you’re your buddy (hopefully someone you like or love) and this is a perfect time for a group hug that includes the family pets.  Check out some other methods to heat your home without fire at

6-Food and Water:  if the weather is preventing you from going outside, you might be spending several days cooped up inside.  You should have enough food and water to survive for at least a week but more is better.  Of course, soups and hot beverages are comfort food in this situation.  Luckily it is not expensive or difficult to stock your pantry with both of these items.  All you need is a method to heat up some water.  If your stove is still working, you may even be able to draw a hot bath by boiling some water. 

7-Lights:  If the power is out during a winter storm, you can almost be sure that your days will be short and dim.  Have several hand crank powered LED lanterns to light up your room(s) or plan to spend 16 hours a day sleeping.

8-Entertainment:  Time to pull out those board games or the deck of cards and spend some quality time with your family.  Books are another alternative – as long as you have some light (see #7).

9-Communications:  unless it is TEOTWAWKI a small solar powered or hand crank weather radio will come in handy to let you know when emergency services are working again and when it might be okay to venture outside the home once the storm has passed. 

Winter storms rarely last more than three days – but the effects can linger long after the storm has passed.  Plan for a week or more of being snowbound and you should be okay.


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