Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I am going to be honest here. I am not always understanding or sympathetic when people complain about or are concerned about severe winter weather. I am pretty sorry about that but, really, in my defense please take a look at the photos of the house where we live. The snow banks are taller than me. Because I see annual snowfalls of 28 feet or so, a foot or two seems pretty manageable. Because I see double digit negative highs, I honestly don’t worry about air temps in the teens or even single digits. It’s cold but it doesn’t seem that cold. I know, I am jaded.

I do know that because I live here year round, we have planned for these things and that makes all the difference. We have a block heater that insures that the tractor we use to clear snow can start when we wake up to -36F air temps (not windchill). We have three heating systems to account for a failure of either of the first two. There is cast iron wood burning cook stove that stands between us and cold canned beans with a side of icy death. We have outdoor clothes that enable us to go do barn chores outside in that weather. If it is not your regular experience, then you will not, and not having the right equipment means not being able to do the same things. That said, it has taught us a few things that might be helpful to you whatever your severe weather looks like and whatever your resources might be. Here are my top tips.

1. Get some electric candles. They are brighter than you think and the LED ones use very little electricity and unlike real candles, when your kids knock them over, they will not burn down your house. Keep them next to the beds, in the bathrooms, in hallways, and in each room. This is actually the set that I have and they are all over the house. Each kid has one that they can reach from their beds so that they can find their way through the house in an outage. A tree fell and knocked out our power on Christmas Eve and I was really, really glad for these.

2. Get some Justin chargers. If our power is out for an extended period of time, we can charge phones with them so that we have news and a means to contact the outside world. Our neighbors are pretty darn far, almost a mile, so this is a critical issue. Hand crank emergency radios are not expensive and are a good idea to keep around for emergencies. The one I linked to will also charge your phone.You will have access to news about the weather or other conditions and cranking it will help the kids work out some frustration. Or you. You might need to work out some negative energy!

3. If the power goes out, use painter’s masking tape to keep the fridge and freezer closed. Otherwise, you will open the repeatedly without thinking about it.The more people in the household, the more it will be opened. If it is below freezing, you can put things in the garage or on the porch that you will want access to later; things like milk and such. If it is very cold, like single digits or lower, put them in a cooler outside to keep them from getting too cold.

4. If you have a gas stove, you can light it using matches or a lighter which means you can still have stop top meals. If you have an electric stove, make sure you have a manual can opener and canned food options. Make sure that you have some protein and that it is not all canned pastas.

5. If the power goes out, open the cupboards under sinks and run the tap at a trickle to prevent frozen pipes. Shut the bedroom doors and put a towel under the door to keep the air from moving. This way, you can trap the heat into central locations and keep your family warmer. If you do not have a secondary heat source, you should find out who among your closest neighbors does, in case of an extended emergency. That said, even if your house gets down into the low fifties, you will not die. Bundle up, wear hats, and get out the blankets. It is going to be fine.

6. Do not, under any circumstances, use any un-vented heating source such as a camp stove or a BBQ indoors!!! The invisible fumes will kill your family faster than the colder temperatures will. It is not worth the risk. If it falls into the 40s, you should seek shelter elsewhere rather than risk gassing your family.
7. Put together a collection of non-electric games, books, puzzles, crafts so you are ready for the long haul with no electronic distractions.

8. If you have a well, get two 3-galllon water jug with a dispenser for every family member so that you will have enough drinking water for nearly a week. You will also want to fill your bathtubs to the brim with water which you can use for washing and for flushing toilets. Then you have a water source if the power fails.

9. Stay calm. This is unusual but it is not unheard of. People cope with this other places and you can too, you just need to stay calm. Really. It will be okay.

10. I mean it. Stay calm. You’re going to be fine. I promise.