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Winter Storm Preparation Tips

February 1, 2011 · 104 comments

in Misc Tips

If you live in a part of the world that rarely sees snow, you may be thinking “Ha!  So glad I don’t live where those suckers do!”.  However, the rest of us have to think of what to do in the event of severe winter weather.

We are expecting around 12 inches of snow where I live over the next 24 hours.  Whereas I hope I am not snowbound for long or, God forbid, stuck without power, I have been spending time preparing today just in case.  The following is a list of things I have done to prepare for power loss and severe winter weather:

  1. Filled up gas cans for the generator in case we lose power.  This is never a problem in the summer, but if we get enough snow, I can’t get out of our subdivision to get gasoline.
  2. Washed all dirty clothes.  Definitely don’t want to run out of clothes!
  3. Retrieved the old phone from the basement that does not require electricity to operate.
  4. Placed flashlights all over the house, after testing to make sure they worked.  (I do not like to use candles.)
  5. Pulled coolers out of the storage area.  If the power goes, I will throw what is in the fridge/freezer into the coolers and place them in the garage.
  6. Charged all phones, laptops and the Ipad.
  7. Stocked up on food.  (Peanut butter, tuna, crackers, bread.)
  8. Cleaned the house.  If I am going to be trapped in a house, possibly without power, I don’t want to be stepping on stray books,clothes, whatever.  Not to mention, I prefer to be in a clean house if I am forced to stay inside.  (Kids participated in this cleaning activity.)
  9. Made sure there was easy access to sleds, shovels, and salt.
  10. Checked to make sure the batteries in the radio were functional.

I know that a lot of people get frustrated that the weather forecasters quite often sensationalize winter storms.  However, I am just grateful that we at least have advanced warning so that we can prepare ahead of time.

I hope everyone is able to stay warm and dry.  Please remember to check on any elderly neighbors or relatives, especially if the power is out.   Oh, and take care of those pets too!

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff February 1, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Great post, I just bought a pair of boots tomorrow, but not much snow in NYC has arrived since my purchase. Your post actually reminds me of a preparation I wish I had taken part in before the blackout which occurred in the summer several years ago.


Kris February 1, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Well, I hope you don’t have to use your boots tomorrow! 🙂


Deidre @ TransFormX February 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Kris….As always a great post. I think this is number 100 & counting that I agree with what you have written 🙂 (I’m sure that one of these days I may disagree with your assessment but its not today and probably not within the forseeable future LOL)

Anyway…I grew up in Colorado and have been in some doosies. One thing I bought several years ago when living in tornado alley, was a battery powered weather radio, which comes in very handy if in the basement or storm shelter waiting for the tornado to rush through. Especially handy in a power outage.

You sound very prepared and I’m sure you will be fine! Hopefully you do not lose power!


Kris February 1, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Deidre, you have to stop being so nice! 🙂

I can’t imagine living in tornado alley, that would scare me half to death. (Although I do love watching weather, I am a huge fan of storms.)

I will have to come up with a controversial topic you will disagree with. Something like “Ho-Hos are the key to diet success…”


Deidre @ TransFormX February 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

LOL @ being so nice 🙂 and ‘Ho-Ho’s = diet success’ Too funny!

Should I just say ‘I concur’ 😉

I have my warm and fuzzy socks on today…they reminded me of your article 🙂

Its 20 some degrees here and supposed to rain/ice for the next 2 days. It will be interesting for sure!


Suba @ Wealth Informatics February 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Stay safe and warm Kris!

I would also add to check up on elderly neighbors to see if they are prepared and if they need any help. They are much weaker to handle the winter. Most people are generally prepared but I have seen a lot of times, they could use some help as well. Good Karma 🙂


Kris February 1, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Suba, you are so right, I can’t believe I didn’t mention to check on the elderly!! I will go add it.


Car Negotiation Coach February 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Hey Kris, I learned today that we’re supposed to get a couple inches of ice on EVERYTHING here in Philly tomorrow. In fact, PECO (local utility) is predicting 100,000’s of houses without power. I guess that means I won’t be online tomorrow :). Gonna be a long day….

Stay warm in that snow!


Kris February 1, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Oh my gosh, I will take a foot of snow over 2 inches of ice any day of the week. Good luck to you!!!!


First Gen American February 2, 2011 at 4:56 am

I remember working a New Year’s Eve party when a big storm blew through town. The hotel we worked for promised to put us up in a room if we got stranded. Unfortunately all the guests got stranded too, so the hotel ran out of rooms and put like 20 of us in one room for the night. I had finals right after and remember trying to study while there was a party going on in the room. Ah those were the days.

Normally I love big snowstorms, but this particular one is costing me my family vacation to florida (some of it non-refundable), so I am officially sick of snow. I have to get an attitude adjustment and go snowshoeing or something so I don’t start resenting this winter.


Nicole February 2, 2011 at 7:44 am

I don’t like the cold. Make it stop.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm

This made me literally chuckle. I wish I had that power, that is for sure.


Nicole February 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm
Molly On Money February 2, 2011 at 9:42 am

It’s minus 4 degrees with ice and snow on the ground….I DON’T LIKE IT!
I thought we are so prepared until I read your list. I got some work to do.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Molly, I am so glad I could nudge you to be further prepared!

Minus 4 is an awful temperature. The kids at my house are all sledding and having a grand time. You can’t do that when it is minus 4.


DoNotWait February 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

Wow! Very organized you are! I don’t know if it is the fact that we, in Quebec, get used to it so young, but I do not do that much preparation when a storm comes. I do make sure to have gas in the car, windshield washer, a snow shovel in case I get stuck somewhere, warm clothes (I have extra scarfs, mittens and hats in the car in case I am stuck in there for a while) and a little bit of food. In the house, not so much preparation except making sure I remember where the flashlights and candles are, as well as preparing some ice for food in case I need it. And good tip for the phone! I always keep one close too. The spouse once wanted to get rid of it and I thought that was crazy!


Kris February 2, 2011 at 11:29 am

Well, I am not normally this organized every time it snows, but they were predicting such devastation!

I think we have about 7 inches of snow, and really not much wind. Glad it didn’t become as disastrous as predicted. I am sure in Quebec, that amount of snow would be considered a flurry…


DoNotWait February 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Well, maybe not a flurry but let’s say a little storm. Here, we already got (this morning only) about 5-7 inches too and they said: don’t worry, it will not be as bad as in the US. I think we’re heading to a 12 inches and it is very windy. That is a normal good storm for us. A lot of car accidents are reported. Maybe they did not predict enough devastation here!! That is the thing in Quebec, people get used to it and do not think about the risks as seriously as they should.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm

DNW, I do not understand why people think they are stronger or tougher than natural forces like the weather. When I see these idiots out driving around in insane weather conditions, I don’t admire them- I pity their ignorance.

Stay safe, and take it easy!!


Little House February 2, 2011 at 11:56 am

This makes me realize that even though I don’t live in an area that get’s snow or bad weather, it’s a good idea to prepare for other kinds of emergencies. I live in an area that could be hit with an earthquake at any time and without warning (Thanks to the ring of fire!) I don’t have my emergency kit packed like I was going to do a year ago. I need to get on this ASAP.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Little House- I totally agree with you. We had a power outage a couple years ago (referenced in my renovation post) that got me really thinking about being prepared year-round. That outage was in the summer, but many of the same rules applied. In your situation, I would imagine having access to water would be crucial, along with many other things.


Squirrelers February 2, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Kris – How much snow did you guys end up getting?

Here in suburban Chicago, we got almost 20 inches of snow! 19.5 was the last reading I heard of. Pretty much everything is shut down here. I’m actually sick today, so it’s a rare day of being trapped in what’s practically an igloo with nowhere to go and not much energy anyway.

Interestingly, when I look out the window I see one car that looks totally clean and another that’s totally covered like a mound of snow, with just a side mirror sticking out.

There was thundersnow, 50mph winds, and tons of people stuck overnight on the iconic Lakeshore drive downtown. Not sure why some people don’t listen to the forecasts, they were saying that we might get 14-18 foot waves with the potential for up to 25 feet! On an inland lake!

The big thing I see, when it comes to winter preparedness, is the willingness to take seriously the forecasts and do as you’re told. Reporters interviewed countless people who had all kinds of bravado about not being worried about driving around, they’re from Chicago so they’re tough, etc. I can agree on the tough part over here, but there’s a point where you have to accept that the forecasters know more than we do, and we should listen. It’s the clowns that think that they can just ignore the warnings because it’s all hype that are the ones who can really suffer.

That’s my biggest tip – listen to the forecasts, and completely heed the warnings. Don’t think you know better than the weather service.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I love thundersnow! I didn’t experience it until I was 23 years old, and I will remember it forever. I was watching the Weather Channel last night and Jim Cantore sure got surprised when the thundersnow hit Chicago, his reaction was kinda funny. You guys really got hit hard. I would guess we got around 10-11 inches, at least that is what it looked like when we shoveled. I am at Panera typing this, so the roads are drivable, although still pretty snow-covered.

I totally agree that people need to heed the warnings of the forecasters. Yes, sometimes they do overdramatize it, but my gosh, I saw those pictures from Chicago and you couldn’t have paid me to go out in that. We got stuck in our sub today because some guy in an SUV whipped around a parked car and forced us to the side. Unfortunately, where we were forced into was where the plow dumped a bunch of it’s snow, so it was 2 feet of fluffy snow. Taught my teen a little bit about winter driving though.

Were there any good pictures/film of Lake Michigan? I bet that was a sight!!

Glad you are safe, and warm!


Squirrelers February 2, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Yes, thankfully we’re safe. Those visuals of all the abandoned cars on Lakeshore Drive is quite stunning. A day later, it seems like the bulk of those cars are still there. There were plenty of people stuck all night, 10 hours or more, with nowhere to go but stay stuck in the snow bumper to bumper. One guy who was interviewed was in the car driving his baby home, I think it was from the hospital. Can you imagine being stuck in such conditions?

20+ inches of snow was 3rd all-time in Chicago history. The winds were the other big story. As for the big waves, I don’t know that they materialized to the extent that was feared, but the snow and winds were just as bad as advertised. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if a 25-foot wave crashed ashore in the city! There are some expensive properties all up and down the lakeshore in the city and suburbs.


krantcents February 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Preparing for a storm or some other disaster is as important preparing for retirement, college or as trivial as a dinner. These are necessary and should be part of everyone’s life.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Krant – I totally agree with you, but it is amazing how little time people put in to preparation. I actually used to be like that somewhat until we had that awful week-long power outage a few years ago.


Kevin@OutOfYourRut February 2, 2011 at 3:12 pm

I live in one of those areas that doesn’t get snow–or so it seems MOST of the time.

Last month we got hit with seven inches. Now this may not be much of a storm in the snow belt, but in my area, it caused major paralysis.

Snow storms can actually be worse in areas that don’t get snow because there’s no capability to deal with it. No plows, no salt, no snowblowers, no snow shovels, no anything. The entire strategy is to sit and wait for it to melt, which is what usually happens.

But not this time.

A deep freeze with dense cloud cover followed the snow, so nothing melted for nearly a week. The roads were unplowed (again, no plows), schools were closed for five days, no mail came in or out; if you couldn’t work from home, you couldn’t work. Emergency crews couldn’t help disabled vehicles because they couldn’t get to them.

My long winded point is not to ignore Kris’s point, even if you live in an area that where it doesn’t normally snow. All the worst elements of a major storm are in place precisely because there’s no preparedness.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Kevin, you aren’t kidding about it being worse in areas that don’t usually get winter weather. We drove to Florida last year from Michigan and Georgia had gotten hit by an ice storm. The state was a mess, I am guessing they don’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with winter precipitation. Plus, people don’t know how to drive in it, the roads aren’t salted- it is just a disaster.

That freezing overnight can be pretty scary. At least with fluffy snow, you can get some traction. Sometimes it is even worse after plowing because then that top layer can freeze and there is nothing to grip. Either way, it is all bad.

Thank you for reinforcing my points. There is never harm in being prepared, but you sure can get yourself in trouble if you decide to just ‘wing it’.


Kevin@OutOfYourRut February 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Bingo, Georgia is where I’m at!


Kris February 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm

I am good!!! 🙂


Lola February 2, 2011 at 3:14 pm

It’s great to hear you are well prepared for the severe weather – you’re a wise AND hardy soul.

We had an ice storm some years ago that pretty much shut down the city. Many, many trees broke under the weight of the ice and fell on cars and houses, pulled down a huge number of power lines, blocked the streets, etc. I think we were one of the few prepared families in our neighborhood, since we had a generator, kerosene heater, working flashlights, etc. (Scout training paid off again!). Fortunately the city water treatment plants were not affected and we didn’t have an interruption in water service. Some other places around here were not so lucky, and that was a real mess for them.

Your comment about rounding up the old phone made me smile – it brought back the memory of how many people were caught by surprise that they didn’t have a working phone if they only had cordless phones that had to have a power source! This was before the big onrush of cell phones, so some people couldn’t make a call till they got power again (or found an old phone).

Hope the storm goes easy on you, and the groundhog is right about spring coming soon!


Kris February 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Lola, I am hoping that spring is early too.

Ice storms are incredibly scary. We had school closed for many days a couple years ago because the kids walked between buildings on campus, and administrators were nervous that branches would break and fall off, hurting someone. As I said, I will take snow over ice any day, ice can be very dangerous. You are smart to be so prepared!

So many people don’t have landlines anymore that the phone suggestion may be obsolete. But I thought I would put it out there still!


101 Centavos February 2, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Kris, glad to hear that you’ve made the necessary preparations. I checked out the “food” link, and that is all solid advice for how to get ready for a power outage. Luckily enough, here in Tulsa we’ve had no ice, only snow, although a heck of a LOT of snow. 14 to 20 inches of it. Everything is shut down, and trying to get out of the subdivision tomorrow will be a challenge.
If I may add to the generator. Because of the exhaust, it is a good idea to keep it away from any windows which could suck any carbon monoxide back into the house —– although, in sub-freezing temps, it’s a good bet that all windows will be shut tight. We’ve situated ours about a foot away from the side of the house on the back porch, with a sheet of 5/8″ plywood leaned up at an angle to protect it from the elements.


Kris February 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Andrew – good point on the generator. That needs to be in a very well ventilated area, and as you said, away from windows. (NEVER IN THE GARAGE.)

Sounds like you got a lot of winter weather yourself. You have a nice truck to get through everything though, don’t you?

Doesn’t it seem like planting season is about 10 months away? Geez, we need a break!


101 Centavos February 3, 2011 at 6:43 am

Kris, I have a 10 yr old, 2WD Ford F150. With enough sand in the back for weight, traction is good enough for most snow days. Ice though, is a different story. A couple of years ago during that last nasty ice storm, I lost momentum on an incline, and slowly slid back down the street backwards, finally coming to rest less than a foot away from a neighbor’s street-parked car.
I’ve just about had enough of the nasty white stuff too.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc February 2, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Wow, you don’t play because these are some seriously helpful tips! I hope you don’t need any of these things, but at least you are prepared!


Kris February 3, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Shawn, I was so prepared!! I even had my son take a shovel in the car when I was teaching how to drive in the winter weather in case we got stuck. Good thing because we ended up needing it!


Barb Friedberg February 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Really good tips. I just had a great week in S. CA. so I am buoyed to handle the rest of winter! Hubby and I are watching lots of movies and playing games for more fun!


Kris February 3, 2011 at 9:05 pm

I am dying of envy Barb… My brother was just telling me how it was 70 degrees in LA today. It is 10 where I live.


Anne February 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm

We just had a huge snow storm yesterday, but the city acted quickly and removed most of the snow off the streets and sidewalks.

Today the weather is sunny and beautiful, and no significant damage, but that preparation list is a smart way to deal with any unexpected situations, you never know!


Kris February 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Anne, we have some gorgeous sunshine today to. I honestly think this is the first time in 2 weeks I have seen the sun.

Glad you are safe, and now you will be prepared in the future! 🙂


Linda February 3, 2011 at 11:27 pm

I’ve been so busy digging out or attending to work (telecommuting) that I’m just now getting around to checking my usual blogs. Glad you made it through the storm with no problems. I had no idea Squirrelers was in my area, too!

I prepped as much as possible. No generator here, but since I’m in the city there’s always a chance to go to a warming shelter if need be. Thank goodness I didn’t need it. My area is usually pretty stable when it comes to power.

The neighbors have been helping each other out in my area. For most part, it seems many folks stocked up with beer/wine/liquor and just enjoyed watching the storm and having a day off yesterday. (Except for those poor folks on Lake Shore Drive; my theory is most of them weren’t Chicago natives, as most of my Chicago native friends agree with me to *never* get on Lake Shore Drive during a severe weather event!) I had to work for about four hours yesterday (telecommuting does have a downside) but did enjoy getting out to talk with neighbors and get some exercise shoveling.

And the thundersnow was awesome!!


Kris February 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm

They must have been out of towners- even I know not to be out on Lakeshore drive in a snowstorm, and I live in Michigan. Maybe Floridians? Wait, why would anyone from Florida be in Chicago during the winter. 🙂

I know a few people in Chicago, and it sounds like people really did help each other out. That is one good thing that comes out of such situations.


Jerry February 4, 2011 at 9:23 am

These are good tips. I will also add that you make sure your roof is in good shape. We had a bad storm and the previous owners did a poor roofing job and half our roof was taken off during a storm. Thankfully our insurance covered it but there was the hassle of dealing with water in our house and the stress of it all. If your house is in good shape and you do your best to be prepared it will lead to much less stress.


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