Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
Few can deny the common sense behind preparing for something that is definitely going to happen, yet every year, an impending winter storm sends people rushing out to the store at the last minute, prepping for a blizzard that is due to hit in mere hours. Every winter, if you live in certain climates, blizzards are going to occur. Usually, at least one storm will hit that will cause you to be snowed in. Often, those storms mean you will also lose power. There is the inevitable rush to the store for milk and bread, during which people battle it out for the last supplies left on the shelves.
But you can avoid all that. You don’t have to be a bunker-dwelling, MRE-chomping, camo-clad prepper to see the logic behind keeping some extra food and other supplies on hand for something that happens every single year.
This year, avoid the last-minute panic and the discomfort of being unprepared. This article is full of links to previous articles that will help you in prepping for a blizzard. Put together at least the bare minimum kit for riding out the storm. (Camo is optional.)
Know what to expect
First things first, you need to know what to expect. If you’re new to an area that faces blizzards and cold-weather power outages, you need to read some articles like this one to understand that you may encounter.
Secondly, find reliable sources of weather predictions and warnings so you know when to hunker down. Weather information is an enormous part of being prepared for a winter storm and can help you to avoid being caught on the road in your car during a whiteout or overnight traffic jam.
Everyone knows that clean drinking water is something you can’t live without. In the event of a blizzard and power outage, the water may not run from the taps. The pipes could freeze, or, in the event of grid failure, an electrically driven pump will not work.
“I’ll just eat snow.” No, this is a horrible idea. First of all, snow is mostly air, and you’d have to eat 20 quarts of it to equal 2 quarts of water. Secondly, if you eat that much snow you will lower your core temperature and put yourself at risk for hypothermia. If you already don’t have water, you have enough problems. You don’t need hypothermia. For a small amount of money, you can have a 5-gallon jug of water sitting in your closet, instead of melting snow, crouched beside a fire in the backyard, watching the pot. You aren’t in the wilderness fending off bears. This really is not a good plan. First of all, the snow picks up all sorts of pollution as it falls through the atmosphere. The impurities can potentially make you sick. If you really get yourself in a poorly thought-out situation in which snow is your only hope for survival, boil it for 10 minutes before drinking it. Then, when the crisis is over, please store some water so you never have to do this again.
Each family should store a two week supply of water. The rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per day, per person. Don’t forget to stock water for your pets, also.
You can create your water supply very inexpensively. Many people use clean 2-liter soda pop bottles to store tap water. Others fill the large 5-gallon jugs with filtered water from the grocery store. Consider a gravity fed water filtration device and water purification tablets as well. Other filtration options are the small personal filters like the Sawyer mini or the Berkey-to-go.
- Sawyer mini or Berkey-to-go
- 5-gallon jug of water (Ideally one per family member)
- Gravity-fed water filter
- Water purification tablets
- Water Brick 28 gallon system
- Water Bob 100 gallon system for the bathtub
- The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide
Food and a way to prepare it
Enough with the milk and bread already. Do you even consume milk and bread on a regular basis? This is really not the food you want to propel you through shoveling a driveway 17 times until the plow goes past, at which point you shovel it again.
There are two schools of thought regarding food during a power outage. One: you need a cooking method that does not require the grid to be functioning. Two: you can store food that doesn’t require cooking. This is a good idea if you don’t have an emergency stove or wood heat.
If you opt for a secondary cooking method, be sure that you have enough fuel for two weeks. Store foods that do not require long cooking times – for example, dried beans would use a great deal of fuel, but canned beans could be warmed up, or even eaten cold.
- Click HERE to find a list of foods that require no cooking
- Click HERE to build an emergency food supply that you park in your closet and forget until you need it
- Click HERE to learn to build a healthy food storage pantry
- Click HERE for emergency food buckets (There is also a gluten-free option)
Freezing to death in your own home would be a terrible way to go, wouldn’t it? It’s pretty anticlimactic. There’s no grand story of adventure. You just basically didn’t have enough blankets and common sense to stay warm in a house. Don’t be that person.
During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in. Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth. You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm. As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.
However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require back-up heat at this point. If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of dry, seasoned firewood.
Consider a portable propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater. You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area. If you plan to use off-grid heat methods, pick up a carbon monoxide alarm with a battery back-up. The gas has no smell, and often people who die from inhaling it simply drift off to sleep, never to awaken.
- Little Buddy Propane Heater (and propane)
- Carbon Monoxide Alarm
- Learn more about off-grid heat options HERE
A common cause of illness, and even death, during a down-grid scenario is the lack of sanitation. We’ve discussed the importance of clean drinking water, but you won’t want to use your drinking water to keep things clean or to flush the toilet. If the pipes are frozen or you have no running water for other reasons during a winter storm, you’ll need to consider sanitation needs.
For cleaning, reduce your need to wash things. Stock up on paper plates, paper towels, and disposable cups and flatware. Keep some disinfecting cleaning wipes and sprays (I don’t recommend using antibacterial products on a regular basis, however, in the event of an emergency they can help to keep you healthy.) Use hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before handling food or beverages – there may be a lot more germs afoot in a disaster.
Look at your options for bathroom sanitation. Does your toilet still flush when the electricity is out? Many people discovered the hard way that the toilets didn’t work when the sewage backed up in the highrises in New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. At our old cabin, the toilet wouldn’t flush without power because the pump was electric.
If you are on a septic system, with no risk of the toilet backing up into the house, simply store some water for flushing in the bathroom. At the first sign of a storm, fill the bathtub for this purpose. Add the water to the tank so that you can flush.
If this is not an option, another solution is to stock up on extremely heavy duty garbage bags (like the kind that contractors use at construction sites) and kitty litter. Place a bag either in your drained toilet or in a bucket. Sprinkle some kitty litter in the bottom of the bag. Each time someone uses the bathroom, add another handful of litter. Be very careful that the bag doesn’t get too heavy for you to handle it. Tie it up very securely and store it outside until services are restored. (Here are the complete instructions.)
- Supplies for a kitty litter toilet
- Disposable disinfecting wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Paper plates and paper towels
- Quick hacks for cleaning without running water
- Portable camping toilet
- Hand and surface hygiene without running water
- This book discusses methods like latrines, outhouses, and disposing of human waste safely
Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house. Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.
Candles are the first things that most people think of in the event of an emergency. While they can be a great solution, they do increase the risk of house fires. Be sure to use them safely and keep them away from children and pets.
- Flashlights (don’t forget batteries)
- Matches or Lighters
- Glow sticks (Great for kiddos – learn more HERE)
- Garden stake solar lights
- Oil lamps and extra oil
- Hand crank lantern
- Solar lantern
Other tools and supplies
Some basic items will make your life much easier during an emergency. The good thing is, most folks already have the supplies on the “bare minimum” list. All you need to do is collect them and put them in one easily accessible container.
- Lighter/waterproof matches
- Batteries in various sizes
- Manual can opener
- Basic tools: Pliers, screwdriver, wrench, hammer
- Duct tape
- Crazy glue
- Survival Knife
- Bungee cords
- Magnesium firestarter
- Sewing supplies
- If you’d like to expand on the basic supplies, a more detailed list of tools and hardware can be found HERE.
First Aid kit
You probably won’t need a field trauma kit that allows you to amputate limbs or remove a bullet, but you definitely want to have a few things on hand. It’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand at all times, but particularly in the event of an emergency. Your kit should include basic wound care items and over-the-counter medications.
- Antibiotic ointments
- Disinfecting sprays
- Pain relief capsules
- Cold medicine
- Cough syrup
- Anti-nausea pills
- Allergy medication
- Anti-diarrheal medications
- First aid book
- Prepper’s Natural Medicine (dealing with all sorts of illnesses and injuries with home remedies)
- Fully stocked medic kit (check out our list here)
- The Survival Medicine Handbook
This is something that will be unique to every family. Consider the things that are needed on a daily basis in your household. It might be prescription medications, diapers, or special foods. If you have pets, you’ll need supplies for them too. The best way to figure out what you need is to jot things down as you use them over the course of a week or so.
Prepping for a blizzard is just common sense
You can learn more about being prepared for all sorts of disasters with Tess Pennington’s fantastic and comprehensive book, The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster.
Don’t feel like you are crossing over to the tinfoil hat side by preparing for all eventualities during a winter storm. This doesn’t mean you’re loading up on gas masks and decontamination suits. It doesn’t mean your house is stacked to the rafters with ammo and body armor. It’s just plain old-fashioned common sense to keep a naturally occurring event from becoming a crisis.
What do you think?
If you live in a region that gets serious snowstorms, are you ready for them? Do you have any tips for others? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Thank you for always writing such great stuff. Your point is well taken – really do you need to have milk and bread to survive – yes – why rush out and fight over dwindling resources? If you are truly hungry and starving you will eat almost anything and you’re right it needs to be something that’s going to provide you the calories you need for hard labor (shoveling snow)…namely substantial amounts of protein…lots of nuts, legumes like soy and canned meats. So I’ve been trying to prioritize the categories for cold weather survival. For example if I found myself stuck in the middle of the snow what am I going to need first and so on? Yes that’s slightly different than if you were at home because it assumes you will have warm clothing there. I’m looking at how can I be prepared at home, work, what’s in my truck, and what’s on my body (every day carry). I keep certain items next to the bed for when that big earthquake finally shows up. For the cold weather survival I just got in my order of crampons for our shoes, several more stocking caps and polar fleece head covers. When you show up to your son’s little league practice and your freezing your butts off then how can I call myself a prepper? Yes I was humbled.
Great article! Thank you!
A suggestion for anyone new who is using 2 liter soda bottles to store water. Wash the soda bottle with a small amount of dish cleaner.
To remove the “soda scent” from the cap, soak the cap in a small container of white vinegar for 24 hours and then wash it thoroughly.
I live off grid so some of my advice comes from daily use.
On water: we haul ours from a community well. We have accumulated some. Clear gallon jugs that used to contain juice and tea. Works good for table water. We use five gallon coleman jugs for cooking and dishes etc. These are compact and a reasonable weight to lift. The seven gallon ones are just too heavy for my aging back.
You can buy a seat that snaps on a five gallon bucket and waste disposal bags from Cabellas and other sources. The kitty litter method works best for #2. Too much liquid floods it out. (A gallon a day in means a gallon a day out) I have no advice for high rise residents. I would recommend that rural or suburban residents discretely go outside for #1 or use a separate bucket.
On lighting :we use our LED headlamps daily for chores and I read in bed with mine. Inexpensive ones that take AAA batteries are usually available at costco or Walmart. Last time I was in Walmart they had multipacks of little LED flashlights for about a buck a piece. Just the thing for little kids to keep them amused when the lights are out and backup in pocket or purse. I have hard plumbed propane lights but keep a couple oil lamps for backup because propane doesn’t flow if it is below -45F.
Travel in the south. 8 snowflakes send people running to all the stores to empty them out. It’s freaking hilarious!!
A number of years ago while living in SW Tennessee I got rear-ended when it snowed – barely enough to cover the road. Other driver apologized profusely and said he’d never driven in snow before and didn’t know how. I’m from CT and only stayed off the road when State Police announced the roads were too hazardous to drive – usually at about 6″. Yes, southerners are hilarious with that terrifying S word 🙂
Sad, but true.
Was living in Fairfax VA in 2010 when we had a snow storm. Like 6-8inches. I closed the office early, sent everyone home at 3pm. Good thing too. There were so many accidents, so much gridlock, tow trucks could not get through. People ran out of gas, adding to the mess. Those who could, went back to their work places and spent the night there. Some spent 12 hours in their cars trying to get home.
How do you keep stored water from freezing in a winter power outage? If it does freeze, how do you recommend melting it? Will canned food survive freezing due to a power outage? Will the food still be safe to eat? Will the jar shatter if the liquid in the jar expands due to freezing?
As to stored water: larger jugs have enough mass that they won’t freeze until the temperature gets really low (maybe below 10 F for hours). Assuming you have some backup heat or have sequestered your group in one room you could move your water in with you to stay thawed. Dog mushers and other cold weather back country travelers keep their water bottles under their parka or in their sleeping bag and have a means of melting snow or ice or to boil creek or lake water. If it is cold enough where you are sheltering to freeze five gallon jugs you are really in deep trouble.
As far as canned goods. Commercially canned in metal survives freezing ok. From personal experience while we were developing this homestead and working in town 90 miles away we left some basic canned stuff which occasionaly froze to -50F. Some things are not the same after freezing. Tomato soup and other thickened things don’t stir smooth. Some things get mushy but they remain edible. I never left either home canned or commercial glass canned food. I would think anything canned in widemouth pints would be fine as they are labeled as can or freeze. Check the seals which you should be doing in any case. Spam is totally unaffected by freezing!
Again if your canned goods are freezing you have much bigger problems.
Yes cans freeze they will bulge and you will have to heat and eat soon as they are no longer safe for long term storage.
Water…keep.it in an inside room away from outside walls and where you will be “living” during cold your body heat should keep it unfrozen.. if it freezes in same room as you are in you are in deep problems.
Of course glass will break this also includes alot of cleaners and bleach so take care of laundry, bathroom and under the sink cleaners as soon as you know you are in a cold weather period without heat. By that I mean move it into your warm space.
I would like to suggest, if you loose electricity, your hot tubs can be re-purposed. We have an already dead – well its a leaky hot tub. I’m planning to put a liner in it to hold water from a nearby down spout. Primary planned usage will be for flushing toilets, but if sanitized, could be used for drinking water also. I believe it will hold about 250 gallons. It will require a hand pump and a bucket to carry the water into the house.
Another question, What would you suggest I should use to lower the temperature of an outdoor water storage to keep from freezing? I’d hate to waste vodka or add salt, cause I want to keep it palatable if we had to drink it.
. Why shouldn’t Bromide tablets be used to sanitize water? Somewhere I read it could be used in emergency situations only. But why? It smells just like clorox.
I thought this article excellent. I would add a couple of things. Keep at least one snow shovel INSIDE the house so you can shovel yourself out. Also, be sure to keep other snow shovels and maybe salt in one place that is easy to reach.
And, have a 50-100 ft length of a bright color, like red or yellow, rope to tie to yourself and a porch rail or even a stake in the ground so you can find your way back to the house. Almost every year I read of someone, unfortunately usually a child, who gets lost in a white-out blizzard and freezes to death. The rope should prevent this even if someone else has to find them to pull them in
Food grade 5gal buckets with lids.
I pack dry hay around the livestock 5gal buckets and unless it gets in the teens or lower, they might get that thin layer of ice on top, but dont freeze completely through.
Performance base layers, wool socks, Smartwool products in general, good hats, and parkas (Longer than a regular jacket, keeps that space between your tops and bottoms covered. I like what they call lobster mits, the thumb and index finger are separate, the other fingers together in a mit. Really warm.
Food, as always, keep a well stocked pantry. Keep extra camp fuel handy.
I although I am in West Texas, I brought my husband a snow suit that is rated to -30F. I have feather blankets that keep us warm inside, but I am looking at getting some sleeping bags just in case.
I have spent much of the day researching sleeping bags. Not to use for camping, but in case we have power outages from another polar vortex. Fort Worth. Did you decide on one?
If one lives in snow country, where temperatures regularly get below 0° F, the house should already be cold-proofed with protections against pipes freezing. That’s a given, even without worrying about losing power.
Growing up, our family lived in the country (which has since become a suburb) from where there was no rushing to town for last minute supplies. We had a wood pile for which we culled dead trees. There was a fireplace in our living room, so when the inevitable winter power outages occurred, we closed off bedrooms and camped in the living room before a fire. Our water was from a well, so we kept water bottles because the well stopped running with no electricity. The toilet was on a septic tank, so it never got clogged, but we needed water for flushing. We had camping equipment because we went camping every summer, so we had lighting and stove. So power outages became more of a game for us children than a hardship.
Later I lived in earthquake country. Same supplies needed. At least no fear of freezing there. Being prepared for at least a week without power and water should be second nature, because things like that happen, no matter where one lives.
Now as an adult, I still have a camping stove with fuel, even though I haven’t gone camping for a while, an oil lamp with oil, and other supplies that can help though a power outage.
The only major change that I’d like is to become less reliant on refrigeration. In a long-term outage, we’ll have none.
Communications are critical!
If the electric goes down, cell phone service will be spotty or out completely. Though every member of my family has a cell phone, we also have a landline and a circa 70s rotary telephone. They don’t need electricity to operate. The phone companies charge a lot to support them, and desperately want to eliminate them from service, but for us they are too important to quibble about the cost. You have to have some way to call for help in a life-threatening emergency.
We also have a CB radio and handi-talkies for every person in the group, with batteries and replacement parts, too.
If you live off the beaten path, don’t expect to be plowed out the first day (maybe not even a week – or two. Figure out the easiest, safest, quickest and most fuel efficient way to evacuate sick and injured to a main road. We’ve used the kids’ toboggans, but now all our vehicles are 4WD with plenty of undercarriage clearance. If you do have a 4WD vehicle, consider providing transportation to First Responders after the snow stops. Many towns put out a call to help get medical personnel to the hospitals where they work.
For water storage, WaterBobs in a bathtub or extra large clean trashcan will hold up to 100 gallons. Filling a bathtub with water is really a non-starter. It’s almost guaranteed that the tub stopper will leak and in a few hours, your water will be down the drain.
Another excellent way to store water is to use Water Bricks. Even full, they can be stored outside and withstand freezing. To thaw, just bring one in and park it next to your fireplace or (safely supervised and monitored) space heater.
And don’t forget – if your refrigerator and freezers are not functioning, Mother Nature has provided the Great Outdoors for food storage. We call our garage The Walk-in Freezer. If you do have to put food out, make sure it’s in tightly covered containers that will foil domestic and wild animals. You don’t need bears and coyotes on your front porch.
Virginia Granny: the landline phones do need electricity to operate, just that the electricity is supplied at the station. And our experience is that a storm bad enough to bring down the electric wires usually brought down the landline wires too.
The point about the tub drain plug leaking has been our experience too.
One of the hardest parts about these blizzards is predicting which one will cause problems. We might have five in a row dumping only about a foot a snow, no problem. Then one will come with ice and pull down the wires. There was no way to predict which one would be the problem storm.
When you fill your tub, take your toilet plunger and coat the rim of it with Vaseline, then press it down hard over the drain hole. The suction on the plunger should seal the drain. That could hold you for a day or two, but is not 100% reliable (depends on the quality of your plunger. If it is dry rotted, don’t even try it). If you go that route, check it every so often to make sure the seal hasn’t turned loose.
An even better solution is a pneumatic rubber ball seal, or a rubber screw seal…available at most plumbing supply stores. Long lasting and relatively inexpensive, they work 100% and will hold for weeks. If you go that route, you may have to remove the drain cover/strainer. Just replace it when you’re done.
Note: tub water is not considered potable. You could probably boil it for washing dishes or cloths, but I only use it for the toilet tank.
I ain’t afraid of no snow. Bring it! The more the better.
You need warm clothes and blankets. Many layers of clothes. Many items can be found at thrift stores or yard sales in the off season. Same with comforters and blankets. Sometimes I find wool blankets. I buy every wool shirt and pants that fit me at the thrift store.
When working outside in minus 35 weather, I wear two layers of under armor 3.0 and many more sweatshirts and a thick coat. Two layers for pants and lined work pants. Under armor is expensive ..like 75 bucks a piece so not for everyone.
You might look like the Michelin man but you are warm. Remember when using many layers, you will have to step up the sizes as you add layers. So if you wear a Large, then have some XL stuff too for outer layers
A excellent alternative to expensive Under Armour is U. S. Army Longjohns. Very warm and CHEAP!!!
Really encourage everyone to have a coleman propane camp stove.
With hose and 20lb propane tank can probably cook for weeks. Would be great to have to cook some hot soup when trying to stay worm in cold house. Can get L attachment and have liight and stove with hose, and warmth from gas light. Much safer than gasoline. Easier to control than Sterno cans.
Can take 20lb tank from gas grill and bring inside to cook on. If not snowing outside can use gas grill as oven.
Put food inside grill but not on grill that is on. Can use temp on outside of some grills as rough guide.
Could also boil water for sterilization, or washing your face, or hot coffee!!
“Much safer than gasoline.” I beg to differ. Maybe part of that is because I have more experience with gasoline.
Years ago I planned that in my retirement I’d get myself a yacht and sail the seven seas to exotic locations. But when reading the literature, it seems that propane was the major cause of onboard explosions. Propane is heavier than air. If the propane tanks are stored in the cockpit of a yacht, and there’s a slight leak, the propane would fill the cockpit, enter through the open hatch, collect in the lower parts of the yacht. Then when there’s a spark——KABOOM! After getting prepared for a nautical life, family responsibilities took me to the inland desert—go figure.
Propane needs to be stored pressurized. Hence the danger of a leak. That’s why propane tanks are stored on the tongues of travel trailers, not inside.
Gasoline, except when it’s being used, can be stored unpressurized. Hence there’s less danger of a leak.
Both present the same danger of carbon-monoxide poisoning—if you use either, make sure there’s a crack letting in fresh air.
In making the choice between a Coleman propane stove, and a Coleman gasoline stove, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Propane is easier to start, almost as easy as starting an indoor gas range. In order to start a gasoline stove, one must first pump up pressure into the tank, then deal with a couple of other tweaks, Then one can depressurize the tank when finished cooking. Propane stops evaporating at cold temperatures, then the stove stops working. Gasoline stoves keep heating even at below zero temperatures. Hence a popular stove for mountaineering is a gasoline stove.
Growing up, my family traveled with a two burner Coleman gasoline stove. Even now, the single burner stove that I have is a gasoline stove. I find that gasoline (I far prefer camp fuel specially prepared for stoves and lamps—it’s much cleaner) can safely be used for cooking. But many would prefer the convenience of propane. To each his own.
I have watched videos comparing the burning of coleman fuel, alcohol, gasoline and e85 gasoline. The e85 is mostly methanol and burns very similar to alcohol and those two are the cleanest burning. Gasoline and Coleman fuel are not as clean and burn very similar to each other. I didn’t make the videos and can’t vouch for the accuracy but it looked like a fair comparison. I also have a suggestion for everyone. Back in 1978 in Indiana we had a bad blizzard. Some cars were completely covered with drifting snow. There were several deaths in my county and quite a few more in the whole state. Most of the deaths were in cars that were stuck on the road in the storm. Drifts were up to three feet deep on the roadway and covered the exhaust pipes. If the engine kept running it caused carbon monoxide buildup in the car. If the engine stopped the people froze to death. Keep your exhaust clear of snow and take an extra blanket and some food if you have to travel.
I tried both automotive gasoline and Coleman fuel in my stove, there was a noticeable difference in the burning characteristics.
The gasoline stove I have has instructions that say automotive fuel can be burned. However, the flames had orange streaks and left a layer of greasy soot on the bottoms of the pans that was very hard to clean off. It also has an unpleasant smell while burning, a smell that can get into the food.
Coleman or camp stove fuel burns with a uniform blue flame. I have not noticed a build up of greasy soot on the bottoms of my pans. I could also control the heat output better.
As I said before, and say again, any open flame device can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Be careful.
As far as sanitation goes, we found The Humanure Handbook to be a fabulous solution to taking care of excreta.
Our first farm’s septic system was a wreck. We got the Handbook and built a sawdust toilet. Worked great for us.
and here’s the Readers Digest (condensed) version:
Water. We have a cold snap here–last night we had -36 in our town. Many houses here, including mine, had our pipes freeze and many homes are now dealing with sewer freezes. I still have sewer thank God. But I am planning on that to go also. I still have electricity.
I, being a prepper, had what I thought was enough water, but I vastly underestimated. I had 7 gallons, but I went through that in 2 days. I was able to fill up my jugs from neighbors, but I also bought 4 more gallons. The stores were denuded pretty much.
I’m also glad I had kitty litter (I’ll leave that to your imagination). I was well-stocked with garbage bags.
The city is telling us to put salt down drains. I was able to get good old Morton salt this morning even on sale.
Unfortunately the “rule of thumb”, of 1 gallon of water, per person, per day is not really appropriate or correct.
It border on a myth. If you are stranded in a location in an extreme survival situation, you can sometimes survive on the 1 gallon of water a day. But that is only a drinking water requirement!
It does not factor in Hygiene (it is not good to not have enough clean water to wash your hands with.) or for food prep and cooking or for dishes after the meal.
If you are in an extreme survival scenario this might be the least of your worries, for a short time.
But over a longer term of say two weeks to a month, you are putting your self at ever increasing risk of sickness. Initially you would hopefully be in good shape, but in times of stress, it takes an ever increasing toll on your immune system, increasing your chance for sickness. So hygiene becomes more and more important over time, for the first few month. Until the situation stabilizes and your body get use to fighting off more diseases.
With so many people using so many anti bacterial wipes, cleaners, etc., most peoples immune systems are running at a very low level. So if those things are suddenly removed, your immune system must try to shift into high gear and that can take awhile to occur.
So believe me that this concept of 1 gallon of water, per person, per day is a very bad idea for Preppers.
It is only great, if you are lost in the woods in a survival scenario, as a rule of thumb. Even then it is not always enough. Like in the Southwest deserts, during the Summer months.
Refugee camps plan an individual’s water needs at closer to 10 gallons per person per day, for all water needs. This varies by camp location, the food provided (Rice, beans, or things that take a lot of water to cook.), overall camp cleanliness, etc.. But this is a much better ” rule of thumb”.
This article is not about long-term survival. It’s about handling a few days during a snowstorm. I think a gallon a day is appropriate for this scenario.
I hope everyone read your article and stuck with your gallon a day advice.
If they used the faulty thinking 10gallon a day, they would of been out of water by day two.
And many without running water would be in a bad situation indeed.
Before I lose electricity for like the 50th time, I want to say this should not just be for people who live in an area that gets this sort of weather typically. I currently live in San Antonio, TX and I can tell you that the winter weather we are experiencing is highly unusual. The locals are shall we say freaking out, because they are struggling to function, feed their families, and keep their homes warm. My family and I are going about our business and don’t feel like it is bad at all. I actually have been enjoying the quiet without all the electricity buzzing. We have seen way worse.
My mother is stuck at my brothers house. They both live in San Antonio. They are afraid to drive. My bother still has electricity, but his mother in law house is without power. She is going into her car to warm up. I moved away from San Antonio 13 years ago. Where I live now I see the mountains of Mexico. We normally don’t have snow and if we do it does not last more than 24 hours. We are experiencing this unusual cold for our area and it is forcing us to rethink our set up. We are off grid. I keep water in the barn when its cold, but this time it has some ice on top. Plus I need to increase the amount I store inside during the cold. I am heating water and pouring it into the water of my poultry to melt the ice. Otherwise the water is frozen solid. I have three sources of heat. An electric air conditioning/heater. A propane heater and a dragon heater which uses wood. I am off grid. I have my plants covered in the greenhouse, but I noticed the water tank inside had a layer of ice. I am rethinking the layout to keep it warmer. For those who scream that we are in global warming forget one thing. Before Al Gore came out with his fictional movie, the science community were informing everyone that we were due for another ice age. It was predicted that San Antonio would have the weather of Kansas in the future. Climate change is another word for weather.
I have heard that you can use a compost heap to warm a greenhouse. I haven’t tried it myself, though it is on my list of projects. At the moment I have a very small walk-in greenhouse, but the inside was covered in sheets of ice. I moved all my plants in until the weather warms up a bit. I am expecting next winter to be worse. Time will tell. Good luck with your layout changes.
I compost my livestock manure.
Yep, it does generate heat. Like, melt inches of snow heat.
I am sure there are articles out there, but I used the Humanmanure Handbook as reference. It goes into details about composting in general.
Thanks for the feedback ????
If you can get your hands on it, try to procure a roof rake. You’ll need it to pull snow off of you roof so it doesn’t go into a freeze thaw cycle that will build up ice dams on your gutters. Not to mention, that mess will also back up and snow melt will leak into your house. Been there, done that and it was AWFUL.
if you are a canner you might try this: any time you are canning less than a full canner load, fill the extra spaces with canning jars of water. no extra cost to make safe, clean drinking water that stores for years.
They still sell half gallon canning jars. I have a tall canner which holds two layers of pints. I could pressure process half gallons of water for drinking. The jars are not cheap, though.
I have read that the water may taste off if stored for awhile because it will lose it’s dissolved oxygen. I’ve also read that if you pour it back and forth between 2 glasses it will aerate the water again so it tastes ok. I have been meaning to do this but haven’t got around to it yet. Thanks for the reminder! I do bring drinking water with us – just in quart jars and covered pitchers wherever we go camping. We use it to fill our stainless steel water bottles, and to cook with. I have some bar towels I put between the jars in a cooler so they don’t bounce against each other. I’ve saved a ton not buying water in plastic jugs and we have well water that tastes great. Wow, I really sound like an old tightwad! But it works for me.
Solar stake landscape lights have very few lumens so I wouldn’t invest in them for light in a power outage. I am putting in landscape lighting and still won’t buy them as they don’t put out enough light to even light a path decently. If you have them they might help you negotiate a dark house but then again why mess with them – they will be dirty and awkward and who wants to go out in a blizzard to retrieve them? Plus if you are in a blizzard I guarantee those solar lights aren’t getting recharged. Buy solar Luci lights instead – they are small, inexpensive and work great.
Like most of your suggestions. Here in N.C. we don’t get many major snowstorms but when we do we usually have to relearn some things. 1st don’t go outside unless you have to. Heavy snows worse as more power outages. Also big old limbs can kill you when falling.
Prepping is great because at least in N.C. usually in a week or so most is gone. Bad things happen when you are out driving with a lot of people who aren’t used to snowy icey road conditions.
Buddy heaters, and propane stoves are extremely helpful almost essential if power goes out.
Still need electricity for some lights and fridge. Highly recommend small generator. Can freeze gallon milk jugs with water and bring inside and put in fridge if cold enough outside or move food out but raccoons like most things we do. Would advise against oil lamps esp with good LED lights now. Oil lamps are Molotov cocktails for lighting. Gas up cars, generators, extra gas cans when storms predicted. If you live in country may want to have access to chain saw and learn how to safely use it. Pole saws are great.
You may have to cut your way out. Look out for downed lines right after storm. Back to rule one, stay inside if you don’t have to go out.
We’ve been getting snow and minus zero windchils. I heat and cook most of the winter on a rocket stove with a gravity fed pellet hopper. I have oil lamps, a rechargeable lamp and flashlights with plenty of batteries. I “bake” cornbread in a skilIet on the heater with a disposable pie pan set on top. Simple meals or canned chili beans make it easy. My camp coffee pot makes goid coffee. A tea kettle keeps 1/2 gal of water hot. Easy for dish washing or hot tea. A Mac n cheese mix with 1/3 of the water and a can of tuna, chicken, diced spam or even vienna sausages, a can of peas and the milk and butter it calls for will. Make a simple skillet meal.
In my bedroom/ bathroom I use a campbuddy heater with a 5 gal. propane gas bottIe for heat. I start it a couple of hours before bedtime and turn it off in the morning.
We’re doing just fine.
If it’s new to someone a practice day or two would be good. I leave water in the bathroom and kitchen running at the tiniest stream possible. It will usually keep it from freezing.
We live in high mountain desert at over 6,000 ft. Last nights temp was 4° with a below zero windchill. Ice in the water containers for ducks, chickens, and rabbits but no problem in our mobiIehome.
Omaha, Dec. 1983 — eight straight days with highs <=0 F, lows in the -20s.
Dallas, Dec. 1989 — two weeks of subfreezing highs, all-time low of -1 F.
After living through those events (and more), we made the ultimate winter prep — we moved to Florida!
Add to that, utility.
In an economic collapse, scarcity can emerge for over-the-counter painkillers.
And so they could become money.
” If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of dry, seasoned firewood.”
Been using wood as primary heat for 45 years. “Luck” has nothing to do with making sensible choices about being less dependent on the rest of the world remaining normal in order for you to live.
And yeah, have 2 years worth of cut/split/stacked in the dry hardwood cut ahead…..again, sensible thinking.
You can burn green or less than seasoned wood.it does not give off as good a heat and it leaves a LARGE amount of creosote in chimney. If you have to burn green wood try and mix with some seasoned using a top down start with green wood on bottom ot if on coals at top of pile so the heat from other wood burning dries it. DO NOT BURN TREATED WOOD OR PLY WOOD
Green wood will fup any new catalytic wood stoves so dont do it.
Propane at -15 will not flow or burn so just be aware if crazy cold and you go our to bbq it wont work.
This is great information. I considered myself a prepper… until experiencing the historic snowstorm and freezing temperatures in Texas this week! I’ve learned where my weak areas are and thankfully found your article here to help prepare better. Fortunately, my power hasn’t gone out and we’ve been able to help others with a place to sleep and food. I’m making my list of what to buy and do before the next natural disaster.
All my experience with building fires in a fireplace is with precut firewood. I know that the firewood has to be shorter than the firebox of the fireplace, but how much shorter? 4″, 5″ 6″? What?
This is probably a dumb question but are the Mr Buddy heaters safe for indoors like in one room? I’m looking for the safest heat source, there is a gas fireplace that our landlord says can’t be used in the living room and I read that you can’t burn wood in it. I’m in north eastern PA and want to plan better, we have been fortunate to not lose power much but seeing Texas I really want to be more prepared
It isn’t dumb at all. In fact, it’s a very smart question because of the people who died in Texas over the past few days, several of them were just trying to keep warm.
Mr. Buddy is the only propane heater that is approved in the US to be used indoors. It’s best to get a carbon monoxide detector that has a battery back up so that you can be sure dangerous levels of carbon monoxide do not build up in your room. There are attachments you can get that attach your Mr. Buddy to a propane tank of the type that you use for a BBQ, otherwise you’re using tiny little tanks. If you have the space to store them safely grab 2-3 of those propane tanks and you’ll stay cozy for quite some time.
Thank you,such a great article!