Feel like you need to be better prepared for a blizzard? Winter storms may not seem nearly as dangerous as some of the other severe weather-related challenges out there, but they still create a host of risks that many people often don’t think about.
Frostbite, hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks caused by overexertion while shoveling are all serious issues that are fairly common. Though you may look outside and think that it’s only a couple of feet of snow, it could be very deadly for someone else.
That’s why taking precautions before a winter storm hits your area is so important. I also want to share with you what your family should be doing and not doing during and after a blizzard has taken place. Keep reading to learn more about how to prepare your family and your home for a potential blizzard. In case you missed this post, How To Make Your Own Emergency Car Kit
30 Simple Ways to Be Prepared for a Blizzard
Precautions to Take Before a Winter Storm
A blizzard isn’t something that anyone should take lightly, and when a winter storm warning has been issued, it’s crucial that you’re prepared before it strikes. These are several tips to remember:
1. Furnace Working
Make sure that your home’s furnace is working properly and that it hasn’t been too long since its last maintenance. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to change the furnace filter if it’s been a while. The heating and air conditioning gurus suggest a change every month or two, depending on the time of year and how much the systems have been used since the filter was last changed.
We were surprised when a repairman told us to consider a filter that wasn’t as restricting to the airflow. He said that unless we were having allergy issues, some of the less expensive and less restrictive filters do a good job and allow more air to flow throughout the house. Test some out and see how your home reacts to the change.
2. Weather Radio
Keep a weather radio nearby and stay tuned for any important weather updates. Failing to listen to these cautions could have a devastating impact on not only your own life but also the lives of each of your family members. Emergency Radio
Also, consider getting a radio that not only runs on batteries but also can be powered by a crank. Having extra batteries is always something we need to stay on top of too.
3. Winterize Your Home
Winterize your home before the first storm hits. This includes tasks such as insulating your pipes, particularly those pipes that are running along outside walls. (Allowing a trickle of water to flow through them to help prevent them from freezing during extremely cold and windy conditions is also something we should keep in mind.)
Make sure your chimney flue is clean and allows for the free flow of exhaust, insulate doors and windows if you’ve seen cracks or the sun shines through when they’re closed, and stock up on enough non-perishable food items to hold your family over for a minimum of three days or longer.
4. Stock Fuel
Stock up on firewood, propane, and butane. I always tell my readers to keep their car’s gasoline tank at least half full or above. Please use these stabilizers for gasoline and diesel if you have some stored:
Remember to have all flammables safely stored away from the house. A remote shed may be the best solution.
5. Prepare for Power Outages
It’s best to plan for the worst and assume you’ll lose power, which is why you should have your generator tested and ready to go. Note that most generators aren’t designed to back up multiple appliances. If you have much perishable food in a fridge and/or freezer, they may be key units to keep running. If the generator is powerful enough, of course, you’ll want it hooked to your furnace so the fan can operate.
6. Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Be sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and have fresh batteries in them. Carbon Monoxide Detector
Here in Utah, they suggest you also have a radon gas detector. Check your area for that same issue, they aren’t that expensive.
7. Check the Sump Pump if Applicable
If you have one, check your sump pump to ensure that it’s working correctly. When the snow starts to melt, water damage in your basement is a possibility, but a properly-working sump pump can save the day.
8. Winter Weather Kit
Put together a winter weather kit for each member of your family. This should include items such as a flashlight, batteries, tools, a first-aid kit, hand warmers, and extra layers of thick warm clothing. Flashlights with Batteries
I’ve mentioned before, that I like solar-powered flashlights. I have some on my window sills all the time to keep them charged up, rain or shine.
9. Stock Blankets
Lay out several dry blankets each of your family members can wrap up in to keep their body heat in.
10. Keep Cell Phones (Mobile Device) Charged
Charge your cell phones and other electronics that you will use to get a hold of anyone and let them know whether you’re okay or need help. You can buy special power bank units as backups in case the power does go out. They are handy to charge phones, laptops, notebooks, etc.
Ways to Prepare Your Vehicle For a Blizzard
11. Maintain Your Vehicles
Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition before the storm hits. This means checking the tires, brakes, and windshield wipers, and making sure you have enough windshield washer fluid. It’s also a good idea to keep a winter weather kit in your car that’s similar to the list I provided above for your home.
Be certain that your car or truck has the proper level of antifreeze in the radiator. Nothing worse than having extensive engine damage because you didn’t check the temperature range your car’s cooling fluids have. Over time, the antifreeze concentration can diminish as you add new water to the system, so have it checked from time to time, just to be sure.
12. Keep Your Gas Tank Full or at Least 1/2 Full
As mentioned above, keep your gas tank at least half full at all times during the winter. This will help to prevent the fuel from freezing up due to moisture condensation. A full tank is even better.
This also provides the added confidence that if you need to travel, which isn’t normally suggested in a blizzard, you have enough fuel to get you where you need to go.
13. Make A Plan For Evacuation
Know where you can go for shelter if your power goes out for an extended period, or your home becomes unsafe. There may also be safe havens provided for those who need food. Do your research now, before you need to know these safety precautions.
14. Check on Neighbors and the Elderly
Have a plan in place for how you will check on elderly or vulnerable family members, neighbors, and others you care about. If they live close enough, consider walkie-talkies since they can be powered by replaceable batteries. Do some tests to make sure all needed parties have them tuned to the same channel.
What to Do During a Blizzard
15. Be Ready To Hunker Down
As the snow starts to fall and the winds start to pick up, it’s best to stay put and take shelter in your home or wherever you feel safe. If you’ve prepared properly, the home scene is probably the best place to hunker down. It is all part of an overall plan. Start now rather than wait. August is actually a great month to assemble what you need for the winter months.
16. Stay off the Roads
Avoid getting out and driving on the roads, if you can, since you may not be aware of various hazards out there during a bad storm. Hand Warmers Are Awesome!
17. Have a Vehicle Survival Kit
If you’re trapped or stuck in the snow in your vehicle, try and stay calm while staying put. Venturing out in the cold will only allow hypothermia to set in faster.
18. Be Careful When Shoveling Snow
Try not to use too much energy if you’re out shoveling snow or walking out in the snow. Overexerting yourself can lead to a heart attack.
19. Stay Warm and Be Cautious
Make sure that you limit the amount of time that you’re outdoors. Take some time to pause between projects like clearing snow for neighbors. If it’s really windy, hypothermia can set in faster than you expect.
20. Layer Up To Stay Warm
Wear multiple layers of clothing and proper snow protection such as boots, gloves, winter jackets, and face protection.
21. Beware of Frostbit & Hypothermia
If you’ve spent a fair amount of time outdoors, watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. These include numbness, slurred speech, and drowsiness.
22. Drink Fluids and Stay Hydrated
Be sure that you’re drinking enough fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol since they can actually hasten the onset of hypothermia.
23. Clean Your Chimney Flue and Ventilate the Room
If you have a fireplace, use it during the coldest times of the day and night so you can make the most efficient use of any coal and wood. Be sure to keep any flammable items like clothing and paper goods clear of the fireplace. Be sure to open the flue so there is good airflow when in operation. If not being used, close that flue so the heat doesn’t just go up the chimney and outside.
Remember that it’s only safe to use kerosene indoors if the room is properly ventilated. People die every winter from using a kerosene stove to heat their homes and they keep all the windows closed.
What to Do After the Blizzard Has Passed
24. Be Careful After The Storm
Once the weather has calmed down, there are still a few things you need to be aware of before venturing back outside. If the sky is clear, it’s probably colder than expected. Having snow on the ground also tends to make the environment colder and less forgiving.
25. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Avoid walking or driving through any deep snow drifts as they could be hiding downed power lines or other obstructions.
26. Watch Out For Icy Sidewalks and Driveways
Be cautious when walking on sidewalks and driveways that have been cleared of snow. The surfaces may be icy and slick, particularly if the sun was out for a while and melted things.
27. Watch for Fallen Trees
Watch for fallen tree limbs and other debris that the storm may have left behind. This also applies to areas you’re trying to clear with a power snowblower. There could be some risk of injury to you and damage to the equipment if you hit fallen tree limbs and branches.
28. Be Cautious Re-Entering Your Home
If you had to leave your home during the storm, be cautious when re-entering as there could be structural damage that you’re not aware of. Be sure to walk around the home and look for anything out of order. Spend time out back and look for sagging patio roofs, furniture that’s been blown out of place, etc.
29. Stock Food, Water, and Supplies
Do an inventory of your food supplies and restock them as necessary when it’s safe and convenient.
30. Monitor Weather Updates
Even though the storm has passed, continue to monitor any weather updates in case another storm system is heading your way.
Why is Visibility an Issue During a Blizzard?
Blizzards aren’t just heavy snow storms, they entail strong winds. If there is blowing snow, it will be tough getting around, whether you’re walking or driving. Blizzards cause snowdrifts to form, which is an indication that the wind has been really strong in that area. Driving becomes much riskier if you can’t see what’s ahead, or even where the lanes of the road are.
Who Normally Announces Storm Warnings?
The National Weather Service is usually responsible to announce or issue storm warnings. That’s one of the reasons I suggested above that you have a quality weather radio ready to keep you fully informed.
What Besides Insulation, Weather Stripping, and Caulk Should I Use to Keep the Storm Out?
Here in Utah, we’ve always put storm doors on the main entrances to our homes. They’re great since you can keep the cold wind and snow out during the winter, but also install screens for good airflow during other seasons when you want to have some fresh air in the house.
Storm Windows Do Make a Difference
It’s hard to believe, but many American households still have single-pane windows. If your family is one of those, you may want to upgrade the value of your home by installing double or triple-pane windows. There may even be some tax credits your state allows when you make your home more energy efficient.
If you live in a frigid part of the country, consider going the extra step by installing storm windows. They amount to an extra window system either on the outside or inside of your current windows, thus providing another level of protection from letting the heat or cool air into or out of the house. Yes, there is some expense when replacing windows or installing storm window systems, but you’ll be surprised how fast you can recoup the cost when you see the savings in your heating or air conditioning bills each month.
Wind Does Affect the Effective Temperature Outside
Often we hear the term “wind chill factor” when the evening weather report is broadcast over the TV or radio. What this means is the temperature you feel when you’re outside during the cold and a windstorm comes up. It is amazing what a difference the wind can make, and the need to be aware of the temperature so you can dress accordingly.
Things You Should Consider During the Winter to Gain More Traction From Your Tires
Those of us who’ve grown up in cold and stormy climates know that winter and snow storms add a whole new dimension to driving. Having good quality tires can make a real difference when it comes to safe driving. Yes, you can trade off and replace those summer tires with snow tires, but you may need to consider also carrying some tire chains in your trunk during the winter.
The chains add another level of traction, particularly if you have to drive on packed or icy roads. Depending on your vehicle, they can be somewhat of a challenge to put on, especially if you’re trying to put them on during a storm.
Having studded tires used to be a popular choice, but due to the damage they cause to roadways, many states have restricted their use.
By following these tips, you can help to ensure that you and your family stay safe during winter and are prepared for a blizzard. What would be some other important tips to follow for someone that’s caught in the middle of a snowstorm? I’d love to hear your thoughts! May God Bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: Man on a Snowy Road AdobeStock_401995953 by Mikel Allica