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Survival Skills

Prepare for the monster storm in four hours

The snow is on the way.
Prepare for the monster storm in four hours

So here’s the scenario – the monster storm is on the way and expected to hit the east coast Friday. You haven’t prepared for such a disaster, and there is a good chance the power will go out. What can you do, right now, to prepare your home and family for the blizzard?

by Leon Pantenburg

Patterson storm photo edited copyright

Snow, wind and cold temperatures will hit the east coast this weekend.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday said it expected between 12″ and 24″ of snow to fall in the District of Columbia, Baltimore and surrounding counties by late Saturday. Those totals could be adjusted up or down depending on the exact track of the storm, which is targeting the mid-Atlantic region.

To start with, DON’T PANIC! To survive a winter storm inside your home you need food, water, warm shelter and lighting.

If you get  busy, you should be able to make all these preparations in about four hours or so.
Food: Let’s hope you have a several-day supply. If not, go shopping immediately. You will have to battle crowds, but grocery stores don’t keep much in the back room. If the highways are blocked, the store will run completely out of food in a day or two. It could be several days before more supplies can get in.

Do off-grid cooking in the garage, some well-ventilated area or outside. The carbon monoxide from lighted charcoal, a gas stove or propane cooker can be deadly in a closed, sealed area.


coleman duel fuel stove

Don’t use a camping stove inside to cook or heat a room!

Heat: You may not have any heat at all  if the electricity goes out. And if you don’t have some sort of  non-electric heater, it’s going to get cold inside.
But you can survive. Start by  cutting down on the area that needs to be heated. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, make that the center of the home for the next few days, and get lots of wood inside. Move everyone into that area, and seal off the rest of the house. The idea is to have everyone in one room to conserve heat and light.

Hang blankets over doors, and roll up towels to put at the bottom of doors and windows. Cardboard, cut to fit, is a great insulator, but it blocks the light. Stop the wind!

Then, take all the blankets, sleeping bags, warm coats etc and put them in that central room. Pretend you’re camping – everyone make a warm bed or place to stay. It may get cold in the the house, but you’ll survive in the warm room.

Be careful not to seal the room too well. If you’re using anything with an open flame, it will emit carbon dioxide, and it must be properly vented. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.

Snow may block the streets and roads for days.

Snow may block the streets and roads for days.

Water: Store as much as you can while the power is still on. Fill your bathtube, and all the empty containers you have while the water is still running. If you can still get bottled water, stock up as best you can. In a pinch, you can empty your water heater – it will have up to 60 gallons of water in it. (Here’s how to gather the water in your plumbing system.)

– The drinking water should be kept some place where it won’t freeze.

– You should still be able to flush the toilet by pouring water in the commode tank. Otherwise, you better have a five gallon bucket to use as an emergency latrine.

Lighting: Make the best use of whatever light sources are available. Get all the spare candles and lamps together  and inventory what

A single candle may provide enough lighting in some power outage situations. Check out thrift stores and garage sales for good deals. (Pantenburg photo)

A single candle may provide enough lighting in some power outage situations. 

you have. Then, conserve your resources, and use them wisely. Several people may be able to use the same light source simultaneously in activities such as reading or playing a board game around a lighted candle or lamp.

Here are a few other tips for survival living inside your house:

– Don’t waste batteries. Use flashlights sparingly, and this is not a time to depend on electronic games! Schedule regular radio listening times, for favorite music programs. Or know where to find a show that gives an upbeat, positive spin to the depressing, emergency situation.

– Have lots of board or card games around. Many of them can be played around a  single lighted candle. (During one memorable Iowa blizzard many years ago, my entire family played Monopoly for nearly three days straight! I went bankrupt several times!)

– Have a big selection of good books to read. Don’t rely on a Kindle! When the batteries die out, so do the stories. Find books that can be read aloud, and let the kids do some of the reading.

– Useful craft projects, that contribute to the overall well-being of the group, can be appreciated.

Nobody wants a power outage. But the right attitude and some preparation can keep the situation from becoming too bad. Besides, when it is all over, there will be all these war stories to tell. Who knows –  maybe the enforced family time will have proven beneficial!

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1 Comment

  1. Pete m

    02/13/2016 at 14:59

    We got snowed in at our cabin in the mountains a few years back. The snow was blowing sideways. All was fine until the power went out. Then the extra wood for the wood burning stove, candles, and board games were a life saver. The four of us (my wife & I and two kids) slept on the sectional sofa in the living room by the wood stove. Had to feed the fire a couple times that night but we that stove was worth it’s weight in gold.

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Survival Skills

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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