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Mamas--What do I need to prepare for winter storms?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Help this Florida girl out. I saw this special on the local news all about winter storms... similar to the specials I used to see about hurricanes in Florida. I'm wondering what I need to keep in the house (well, apartment) and car in case of winter storms.

For the car, I'm assuming a bag of salt, a small shovel, and an ice scraper. Should I carry anything else? I don't see us going on any long commutes if a storm is on its way. Typically, the kids and I stay within 10 miles of home.

For the apartment, is it pretty much a given that we'd have to go to a shelter in case of a power outage? I don't have any form of alternative heat... no fire place. Or would the apartment still offer some protection and we could get by with winter sleeping bags and sucH? Do I need the typical hurricane (in my mind) supplies... water, non-refrigerated food, can opener, batteries, etc.?

Any tips on driving/coping with winter?

post #2 of 14
On you, keep some lock de-icer. I have had to use this.

In the car, kept in a milk crate or similar container (make sure the really important stuff is reachable -- you may not be able to get into your trunk):
  • A used tin can (or two) with a few votive candles & multiple packs of all weather matches -- if you get stuck in the car, a lit candle in the tin can will keep you from freezing overnight, you can also use some of the wax from the candle to drip on a surface of your car then stick the tin can to it if you don't have a flat surface that is good to put the tin can on. I put enough votives to fill a tall skinny jam jar and tape a lighter to the outside. I keep my matches in a plastic bag.
  • Lighter for good measure
  • Flash light/head lamp
  • Extra batteries for flashlight/head lamp
  • Cell phone -- if you don't have one, get a trac phone for $15 and add some minutes to it, pay phones are few and far between
  • Reflective blanket (those foil type things)
  • Blanket -- wool is best (says the vegan...), cotton is only warm if it is dry
  • Water -- in some kind of not full container that can stand the expansion that comes with freezing
  • Food -- cliff bars, emergen-c packets, dried fruit, nuts, hard candy, etc. (rotate food & water periodically)
  • Shovel
  • Scraper
  • Keep the gas tank full
  • A small golf pencil with some duct tape wrapped around it until the whole thing is about 1-2 inches thick will give you enough duct tape for anything you'd need it for
  • 30 ft of rope
  • At least some kind of sharp knife, but a leatherman is nice too
  • Small first aid kit
  • Red bandana (red for signaling, bandana for everything)
  • If you are not diligent about bringing warm clothes, keep extras in the car (you can also count on using wool blankets as extra clothes/jackets)
  • A pair of warm gloves
  • A large yogurt or pint size plastic container (or larger like a trick-or-treat bucket) -- keep some of the supplies in it, and if you get stuck overnight, you have something you and your babe can go to the bathroom in
  • TP/baby wipes
  • A garbage bag or two -- in a pinch you can use a large garbage bag for warmth
  • Extra diapers, unless you always bring extras or babe doesn't need them -- I use flat diapers, and they are cheap enough, and small enough, to keep an extra dozen in the car -- they'd also work as extra layers/blankets, arm sling, wound dressing, hat, scarf, etc.
  • Road flares
  • Reflective triangle thing to put on the road if you are broken down
  • Jumper cables and know how to use them
  • Depending on what you will be doing and how far out you will be, a portable jumper could be really useful (I was stuck at a trailhead once at the end of a long hike, and without one we would have sat in the car allllll night long in the freezing cold)
  • If you don't regularly wear the kind of socks (fleece, wool, NOT cotton) and shoes you would walk through snow in, an extra pair in the car would be a very good idea
  • Crampons would be nice too

Some things to remember:
Having stuff in the car is great. Having knowledge beforehand is just as valuable.
Know how to drive in the snow. Read up on what to do if you are stuck in an emergency. Learn to spot black ice. Pull over in a white out.

If you pull into a snow bank, take the time to shovel yourself out. Shovel around the tires very well. If you don't you will end up spinning the tires, creating ice, and creating an even more difficult situation to get out of.

If you are stuck in your car in the snow, do NOT leave it running unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure that the exhaust pipe is free from snow and that you will not fall asleep. There is a *serious* danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. Use the tin can & votive for warmth. Use other people in the car for warmth. Huddle & cuddle to keep warm.

Don't work so hard that you are sweating (e.g. if you need to clear snow from the car). Cotton kills. Wet cotton is very very bad in cold weather. Not just wet from snow, rain, etc., but wet from your sweat.

Stay in your vehicle if you get stuck somewhere. Don't go walking around in the snow to try to find help.

Know that when people get hypothermic they start making B A D decisions. Stay warm and dry.
post #3 of 14
We dont live in a very cold winter climate but we have a car jumper/converter. It basically offers power for a few plugged in items and can jump your car without the need of another car. Its great for the winter time if your battery fails as all you do is hook it up to your car battery hit a button and voila your car is jumped. Ours offers a plug so like in our last power outage this summer the kids plugged a dvd player in and we watched movies but in the winter time I have a small inexpensive electric heater I bought for the sole purpose of having heat *in case* something happened in the winter (were prone to summer outages here instead) Its great to have some power if need be and we have one in each vehicle and 1 at the house at all times. Depending on brand/power they are anaffordable investment they arnt going to run your house for days but an emergency light here or there or item occassionally.

I would also consider if the weather is so bad that power is out that you may not be able to get to a shelter due to driving conditions/road conditions so you may have to hunker down where you are at instead.
post #4 of 14
I just realized I made driving in the winter sound terrifying. It really is not.

I have only had to use lock de-icer (a few times), the portable jumper (once), the shovel & scraper (daily), and extra gloves/mittens (daily).

Once when I didn't have a shovel, I drove into a snow bank and had to dig my car out with a flip flop. I also only had those $1 stretchy gloves. You don't want to be in this position. Being prepared is much more fun.
post #5 of 14
A bag of cheap cat litter is good to keep in the car too - provides some traction on ice if you need it (either for you or your tires).
post #6 of 14
Wow, that other list is way longer than I was going to give.

We (in southwestern PA) have had power outages, but never longer than a few hours in the winter. Other people around here have been out power for days at a time, maybe even weeks with the big storm last winter.

If you don't have/aren't allowed alternative heating in your apartment, you would likely need to find a shelter eventually. But with lots of heavy clothes, blankets, sharing body heat, etc you could probably tough it out for the short term. If you already have the heat on when the electricity goes out, your apartment will retain some of that heat for a while, and cool down slowly. So it would be several hours before you'd even need to start considering a shelter. Apartments are tricky. My grandmother probably could have gone 36+ hours on reserve heat from her building. Her particular apartment was such a heat magnet that she had her heat turned down and windows open all winter and was still roasting.

For short term winter outages, you'll need some sort of alternative lighting. I would go for long-lasting LED lights over candles for safety reasons. But you may want to keep a lighter and some candles in reserve. If you have a gas stove, and the electricity goes off but the gas stays on (what usually happens to us) you'll still be able to cook, just using a lighter to light the burner rather than the electrical auto lighter. Or even one of those wind-up flashlights. You might want to have a wind-up radio so you can know what's going on in the city, with regards to outages, street conditions and weather. Some packaged food that doesn't need to be heated, and a few jugs of water (though we've rarely lost water service).

You'll be fine though, I'm sure.

Winter driving can be hair-raising, but once you learn the ropes it's not so bad. It's really counter-intuitive:you can't slam on the brakes when you're slipping down a hill, and sometimes you have to hit the gas at just the right moment in order to keep going straight, or you'll spin out. When the roads are really bad, or if you're in a hilly area, you may not be able to come to a full stop without getting thoroughly stuck. You might want to find a nice empty parking lot and practice before you do a lot of driving around town. General rule, go slow, and pull over if you think you're going to lose control of the car. Better to be stuck on the side than in a crash.
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much Mamas. I'm starting to put some things together.

In general, I shouldn't *have* to go out in any storms unless I want to--so I'm going to try and keep winter driving to a minimum. I drove in ice/winter conditions almost 25 years ago.. but it's been awhile. Hopefully, it's like riding a bike...
post #8 of 14
I live in the boonies on a mountain and I don't supply my vehicle anywhere near that much. We watch the forecast and don't really go anywhere if there's a bad one coming in. If I'm within 40 miles of home, and I almost always am, I can make it home in a heavy snowfall before it gets too bad to be able to Jeep through it. Freezing rain and sleet are a bit trickier, but I've still never had to pull over and wait a storm out, even when I used to drive sedans and station wagons. You just go slower.
post #9 of 14
If your shovel is one of the folding kinds, make sure you know how to use it.

When I lived in Rochester, NY we had a huge snowstorm, and I was home sick. So, I didn't move my car at all for maybe 36 hours. In the mean time the plow had plowed several feet of snow behind my car.

The next morning I tried to go to work, and I grabbed the folding shovel out of DH's car. I couldn't get the damn thing to lock in place. So I was standing there with this floppy shovel trying to shovel my car out. And I was still pretty sick. And the snow was deep enough that it was pouring into my boots. I finally decided I was going to be so late to work that I'd better call, so I did and said I was "calling in southern."
post #10 of 14
If you're not used to driving in snow, I recommend finding a large, empty parking lot near your house (without lamp posts or other obstructions) during an early snowfall. If you can get there before it's plowed, you have an opportunity to practice starting and stopping without endangering yourself or passerby. :-) You can even do some on-purpose skidding so that you can practice steering out of it until it's second nature.
post #11 of 14
Originally Posted by umsami View Post
For the apartment, is it pretty much a given that we'd have to go to a shelter in case of a power outage?
Last March our power was out for several days. I don't think anyone opened any shelters. We just bundled up. Both my parents and I have been through having the furnace break down in the middle of winter, we managed. Baking a few batches of cookies can warm a house up quite a bit.

Do I need the typical hurricane (in my mind) supplies... water, non-refrigerated food, can opener, batteries, etc.?
Can openers and batteries are just basic no matter where you are. If you lose power to your refrigerator in the winter, just put you food outside in something that the raccoons can't break open. A little drinking/cooking water is usually a good idea to have around, but for everything else you can just melt some of the snow. Just keep a bucket of snow in the bathroom and it will melt so you can flush the toilet.

For really light snow, a broom works better than a shovel.
post #12 of 14
You know, I didn't even think of the non-refrigerated food thing being unnecessary. Talking about winter storms and electric out due to snow...yes, you can just keep your food in a box outside.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks Mamas for all of the great ideas.
post #14 of 14
I live in a small town and we rarely lose power for more than an hour or two. Being that there are two nursing homes and two schools (the designated shelters) within blocks of our house, the power companies are quick to get us back in service. Therefore, we dont' have any back-up plans regarding heat or food. Living way out in the country is different, my dad regularly losses power and has a generator.

Typically, it isn't the snow (unless it is super-wet and heavy) but ice storms are the big cause of days-long power outages.

For the car - good warm shoes, preferably boots, gloves and a hat as well as a shovel if you think could possibly be stranded.

Honestly, I don't have anything in my car for the winter besides a wool blanket simply because I don't regularly travel more than 10 minutes from my home. Any further distance, we are with DH and we could build a temporary shelter just with the junk and tools in his SUV.

If I would be on the road more, I would have supplies like vegankelly describes. In the past year or two, there was a bizarre traffic issue on a major highway during a snow storm. People were stranded for more than two days. Really weird situation, a couple of tractor trailers wrecked and traffic simply stopped. There was absolutley no way to turn around or cross the median. Rescue crews were literally clearing miles of road one car at a time. In that case, having the proper cold weather clothing would enabled a lot people to walk back a mile or two to the last exit.

FYI - I would never, never, never walk along a road during heavy snow, day or night. But in the above case, snow had stopped, the temps weren't terribly cold and the traffic was at a complete stand still.

Overall, if a storm is forecasted, just think about where you need to travel and what precautions you need to take. A one mile trip to the grocery store along a well-travelled road isn't too much cause for concern. A 50 mile trip on rural roads or isolated highways are a different scenario.
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