Surviving Blizzards and Winter Storms
If you live in the Northeast, you should pretty well be used to winter storms, and much of this advice will be familiar. That said, we live in a day when advance planning is becoming rare. Nemo is bearing down, so in case you haven’t thought of this before, here are some winter storm and blizzard survival tips.
How to Survive a Blizzard at Home
The safest place in a long-term lockdown is home. Here’s how to get your home ready for the storm.
- Shelter is the primary consideration. If you’re at home, stay there. If you’re on the roads, they may become impassable and you’ll need to get ready to hunker down in your vehicle. See below for surviving this situation.
- Heat. Utilities might fail, and you’ll need a backup heat supply — firewood is ideal. Stock up ahead of time. As the storm develops, bring the firewood into the house or garage. If you have no firewood, anything that burns will provide some heat. Kerosene, camp stoves, the gas burners on your range. Of course, everyone will warn you not to heat your home with combustibles because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, but let Mayor Bloomberg get cold, and he’ll crank up the oven himself. A little common sense can abate the risk — just make sure you let enough oxygen get to whatever’s burning, and it won’t put out carbon monoxide. If necessary, even candles or oil lamps will put out some heat.
- Food and water. This is no time for panic shopping. Stock up way ahead of time. But if you need to hit the grocery on short notice, go for staples — rice, beans, canned vegetables, and canned stew. Use up the dry good first, as long as you have plenty of water. Save the canned stuff for water shortages, since they don’t need water to prepare. Make sure you have at least one gallon of water per person per day, and keep at least three days of water. Between you and me, keep two weeks of water, but if you can’t do that, just be sure you have at least three days worth.
- Get a bunch of clothes and blankets ready. You might be bundling up in the house if the heat fails. Keep your extremities warm. Wear a hat.
- Coordinate with neighbors. Check on the old couple next door; see if they need any groceries. Pick up some diapers for the young parents down the street. If you need something from them next week, they’ll remember.
- Guns and ammo. This is no time to make a progressive statement about a gun free world. Load the gun and put it out of reach of kids and stupid adults — but keep it handy.
How to Survive a Blizzard in Your Vehicle
If you’re like me, you already have a survival kit in your vehicle. If not, time to stock one! If the roads become impassable, pull off the road so the plows don’t run into you. If possible, park in an area that’s sheltered from the prevailing winds.
- Shelter. Your vehicle is probably your best emergency shelter. Stay in it. The biggest problems will be keeping warm and getting comfortable enough to rest.
- Heat. It’s remarkably difficult to keep the vehicle warm. Glass and metal are poor insulators, so you lose heat quickly after you cut the engine. To make it worse, you can’t really stay active, so your extremities get cold, and pretty soon you’re losing toes and fingers. If you have a buddy in the car, keep each other warm. Use every scrap of clothing and blankets. Loosen your shoes and belt to maximize circulation. If you have a freezer bag, stick your feet in it. If not, stick them in a backpack or purse — anything will help. It’s OK to run the engine now and then and crank up the heat, but it’s critical to clear the vehicle’s exhaust from your area, or the fumes will kill you. So shovel the snow away from the tail pipe before you crank the engine.
- Food and water. Any snacks are great, but not critical. In any event, bathroom breaks are going to be a pain, so even if you have a good emergency food supply in the vehicle, don’t over eat. Water is another matter — you have to have it. After a single day, you’ll get thirsty enough to make you crazy, and if you have a young child, you’ll be even more miserable seeing him suffer. If you have a container, scoop up snow and start it melting.
- Patience. Odds are you’ll be found in a day or two. At the worst, on the first nice day after the storm you can probably walk to a home or business and get help. Of course, if you’re in the boonies, that might not be so simple, showing how important it is to plan your routes ahead of time.
- Emergency communications. Cell phone networks might go down, but a CB or ham radio will get you out of a bind. Get your ham license! When you do, look me up — I’m K1CCX.
Further Reading — More Cold Weather Survival