Snowstorm Preparedness Tips

I currently live in sunny Florida. So what do I know about snowstorms? I grew up and lived most of my adult life in Massachusetts. We know snowstorms. I remember the blizzard of ’78, when a Nor’easter hit the State and dumped over two feet of snow on a landscape already covered with snow from a particularly snowy winter. Back then, the term “snowpocalypse” had not yet been invented, but it would have been fitting.

The same considerations that we’ve discussed in past articles, when the power is out, apply here. But there are a few additional serious possible problems.

The freezing temperatures mean that you need some way to heat your home without electricity. We had a fireplace, and a supply of wood (some of it out in the snow, unfortunately). In later years, we installed a coal-burning unit in the fireplace, so that we could burn coal for heat. It is easier to store coal than to store wood because coal offers more heat per unit of volume. Proper ventilation is essential, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. In a major snowstorm, you have to make certain that the fireplace chimney is not clogged with snow.

A similar consideration applies to your home oil heating system. If you are fortunate enough not to lose power, or when the power does return, you need to make certain that the vent from the heating system to the outside is not smothered in snow.

If you don’t have any way to heat your home when the electricity is out, you are in dire straits. You could dress very warm and sleep in a sleeping bag rated for very cold temperatures. But even with these measures, the freezing temperatures are life-threatening. Bugging out to a neighbor’s house that has a fireplace or furnace is an option worth considering.

If you are preparing for such an eventuality — power loss in winter for any reason — you might want to consider a free-standing wood burning stove. The old Franklin stoves (with modern improvements) are still available for purchase. Some models have a burner for cooking food, boiling water, etc. This prepping item is expensive and should be professionally-installed. But we are not talking here about prepping for an apocalyptic event. The power can go out in winter for a number of reasons, even for an extended period of time, without any long-term disaster as the cause. Mother Earth News has a good article on wood stoves.

A major snowstorm may put you in a situation where you cannot go out for food, and you lose power for refrigeration and cooking. Here is one manufacturer of modern wood stoves (which I offer merely as an example) with several models, some of which can be used to heat water and cook food.

If you cannot cook food without power during a snowstorm, you will need plenty of stored food that does not need to be cooked. Pasta needs boiling water for preparation, but the type of pasta called couscous can be prepared from clean bottled water without cooking. Instant oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, and the type of instant barley called “quick barley” can also be prepared without cooking, using bottled water. It takes longer to prepare the food with room temperature bottled water, but it does work. Be careful not to leave the food out after preparation; it will grow bacteria. So prepare and eat the food promptly, and use only purified water.

Use this option at your own risk, based on your own good judgment about the safety of your stored food and stored water. Without sufficient heat, bacteria in the food and water will not be killed. Water purification or storage of sufficient amounts of purified bottled water is also essential for snow storm preparation. So, too, is proper storage and rotation of your stored food, so that it is safe to eat.

In addition, if you are snowed in, you might not be able to get to a doctor or hospital in case of injury or illness. This is when a well-stocked first aid kit AND a set of medical and first aid books become worth every penny. See our links to first aid and medical books and supplies on our links page.

– Thoreau

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