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
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.
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.
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
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!