Unless you live in a cave, you are by now well aware that the Northeast was pounded by a storm last week. It was a whooper if you live near the coast, a doozy if you lived a bit inland, and little more than a nuisance for those of us in the Western-most regions. There is a lesson to be learned from the hit-or-miss pattern of snow and wind, and that’s that the forecast models are not precise. Weather people do a good job, but you really never know.
Always, just in case, we take storm preparedness seriously. I find that is far better to have things ready that I don’t need than it is to need something major that I don’t have.
The preparations begin with water. We can manage 10 days without power for water. Even so, it isn’t something we can afford to waste, especially if the power is out for a long while, and many more people than usual have to access the water supply form the main lines downtown. In the huge October blizzard of a few years ago we had people from further up in the hills coming here for shower, laundry and drinking water for 2 weeks after the storm was over. So the first thing I do is get all of the chores out of the way that require water in the day before the storm. Sheets are changed, laundry is done and showers are
taken. I clean the bathrooms and kitchen very well and feel mighty virtuous in the process.
Next up I clean out the refrigerator. I do not want to be stuck with a bunch of leftovers if the power is out. It might be cold enough for things to keep outside, but storms are sometimes followed by warm spells. We don’t head to the store but I do bake bread and treats (who wants to face a blizzard without brownies?) and plan out my meals. If the power is down I don’t want to waste the precious ice in the freezer by opening it up. This is when all of those canned meals are handy. I can make chicken and dumplings, stew, chili and all kinds of soup just by opening a few jars of home-canned food. Add in pickles and applesauce and you have a meal that cooks on the back of the woodstove using energy we would be producing in any case.
This brings us to heat. With the right clothes and blankets we could stay pretty
comfortable even without the woodstove. The bigger issue is keeping your pipes from freezing if the frigid weather goes on for too long. It will help to keep the doors to your pipes under the sinks open so whatever warmth is in the house is transferred there. It will also help to keep the taps in your sinks open and let the water trickle through. Frozen pipes are no joke. If the very worst should happen you should know how to drain your pipes so this household disaster doesn’t happen to you.
Whatever you do, don’t try to heat your home or prepare food inside using grills designed for outside use. People rarely freeze to death but carbon monoxide deaths are all too common.
Lighting is just as important as heat, maybe more so. If you can’t see, you can’t take care of issues as they arise. Children will be calmer and happier if they aren’t sitting in the dark. Before the storm I trimmed the wicks on my hurricane lamps and made sure they had plenty of oil. I keep the matches handy too. We don’t rely much on flashlights except for moving around the house, something I don’t want people doing while carrying lit lamps. A few years ago I picked up a bunch of snap lights. These are the glow-in-the-dark tubes that kids carry around at parades. They are wonderful things to have on hand. They give off a fair bit of light and my girls will happily go to bed with one in their hand. They are perfectly safe and a good choice for rooms where you don’t want an open flame.
Entertainment is never a problem. Board games and puzzles, cards and books will keep kids occupied, especially if the adults are playing too. It is a good plan to have something new to pull out if your children get bored.
Another thing to consider is communications. A hand-crank radio and well-charged
phones are critical. We still have a land-line that works even in the absence of electricity. It has been a blessing on several occasions.
One vital thing I want to add is the importance of staying home. If your presence at work isn’t critical to public safety, then please stay home. Emergency crews should not have to venture forth and risk their lives because you felt the need to sight-see or visit a friend. If you do have to work, it is better to go in early and go prepared to spend several days than it is to travel.
Finally, be a good neighbor. Check on the elderly and infirm. Before a storm, see if they need medication or extra food. Do they need help with wood or snow removal? Will they be alone? Strong communities are built by caring neighbors.