In recent weeks, and even last year, we have seen some severe winter weather. Last year, Texas and parts of the deep South got hit with a winter storm that took out parts of the electrical grid. During this time, some reports trickled in of how the Texas grid was just minutes away from a total collapse. Just recently I had 14 inches of snow in one night. Negative 20 degree temps (i.e. 20 degrees below zero) hit my home the other day.
Then there was Daisy’s daughter, Rachel and her BF, getting stuck on I-95 for 16 hours.
As I write this, another major winter storm is expected to hit the East coast all the way from New England down to Greensboro, NC. (For that matter, the National Weather Service in Miami, is warning the Arctic air mass could reach as far down as Florida.) Long Island could see up to 18 inches of snow. New York City? 12 inches. While that is a lot of snow, what is also in the forecast is high winds. Those conditions are more likely for us to have a power outage, one that could be for a prolonged period of time.
So how do we prep for that?
First and foremost, we take an inventory of what we have on hand. Granted, for us here in the Great White (snowy) Northeast, we have a well-stocked pantry on hand at all times.
But as I noted above, extreme weather events can happen to regions not used to them. I can speak to this from experience. I lived outside of Washington DC when a severe winter storm rolled through, similar to the one Daisy’s daughter experienced. We had a power outage for two days. In the dead of winter.
You have to prep for severe weather contingencies. And how do you start with that?
Take inventory of things you have on hand that can be used in a power outage, things that you might be low on, and things you are out of.
Then apply what it takes to maintain the basics of homeostasis (per the USMC definition):
- Water (to include sanitation)
- Shelter (to include fire/heating/cooking, foul weather gear/clothing)
- Security (to include not only physical security, but mental and Rx security. A fire sometimes does offer a mental “sense” of security).
There are various minor differences in this approach, but they all address the basics of survival. Let’s dive deeper, however.
If you were to lose power for more than 24 hours, how would you deal with the basics of homeostasis? Here are some tips that can help…
Do you have the means to stay fed in a winter storm?
- Foods that do not require cooking are the simplest solution. (Here are some ideas.)
- However, a real hot meal can do wonders for morale in cold weather.
- Freeze-dried foods, camp foods, instant foods are quick and easy, only requiring hot water.
The obvious question is this: if the grid is down, do you have the means to even heat water (let alone cook food)?
- A gas or propane stove, as long as you have the means to light them, should not be a problem.
- A wood stove with a surface area large enough to hold a pot of water or two will allow you to make some basic things on it. As an experiment I made homemade mac and cheese on ours one winter.
- If you have an electric stove, obviously you are not going to be able to use it.
During the Arctic blast that hit Texas last year, I read more than a few accounts of people using their charcoal grills to cook in their garages.
Please do not do that. Without proper ventilation, you can kill yourself doing this. If you absolutely had to use a charcoal grill, set it up just outside the garage door, garage side door, on the back deck or some place similar. Do not even attempt to use it in an enclosed area. Again, without proper ventilation, you can asphyxiate yourself and die.
Camp stoves with white gas or fuel canisters are good, but I would only use those in a well-ventilated area too.
As a prep, my wife pulled out a package of chicken legs, filled up the crock pot with water and let them slow cook to make stock. She then divided the stock into 2-3 cup containers and froze them. We find boiling things like grits, potatoes, and even pasta adds more flavor and calories. Then we can use the left over stock as a base for a soup, or a gravy.
Water. You still need it when surrounded by snow.
When I was living outside of DC with a winter storm bearing down on us, I filled one bathroom tub with water for flushing the toilet. Then, I filled every single water bladder I had for drinking or cooking (and I have more than a few of those).
- A case or two of bottled water on hand at all times is a good idea too.
- Currently, in anticipation of this storm, I have two 5-gallon buckets full of water sitting in the tub.
- Last year, I performed an experiment and wrote an article about water consumption. Grid down, turn the tap and nothing comes out. A little hot water, a wash cloth and you have a field expedient sponge bath. Might be a bit cold in a house with no heat, but it is doable.
- Have you thought about your water lines? Busted pipes are no fun. In the ideal world, everyone would have PEX attachments, and those foam insulation tube wraps. Heating tape works well, but they also require electricity. But this is not an ideal world.
Can you stay warm in a winter storm?
In regards to a winter storm/power outage, this is more about clothing than an actual structure or home.
- During and after the Texas arctic blast, there were more than a few posts of people gathering the whole family in one room, with what they had on hand – be it blankets or sleeping bags – to keep themselves warm. Buying cold weather gear, base layers, long underwear, mid-layers, fleeces, winter wool socks, winter boots, gloves or even a winter jacket may seem odd for those living in the Deep South, but it is a very good idea.
- In the Marines, we put fire/heat under both shelter and in security (more on that later).
- More than a few TOP posters from Texas during the Arctic blast, commented on how they initially had a stack of fire wood they thought was sufficient, only to discover that their stack did not get them past a few days. If possible, have at least a cord of well-seasoned hard wood on hand at any given time. For those of us who heat with wood during the winter, we usually have a winter and a half on hand.
- The type of wood stove used can also vary in efficiency. Do you have as efficient of a model as possible?
- If you are using a fire place, when was it last serviced? A chimney fire can be deadly, and being homeless in a winter environment is brutal.
Security during a winter power outage still matters.
In this situation, I am referring to a localized grid down, with expectations of service returning in just a few days to a week. I’m not referring to a SHTF event, though if you’re living through the outage it very well may seem like it. For more information on the levels of disaster, check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on such.
- A prolonged power outage can be a stressful experience for some. We’re talking about a complete interruption of regular life with all of its modern convenience – hot water, TV, internet, etc. – all gone. A good book, deck of cards, board games all can help relieve stress.
- A fire in a fire place or wood stove can provide a degree of security from a mental perspective, real or not. Ever notice how much more fun a camping is with a camp fire?
- Prior to this upcoming storm, the wife and I topped off all our rechargeable batteries for our cell phones, tablets, flashlights, and headlamps. We checked the non-rechargeable flashlights, and our stockpile of batteries. We also made sure the battery pack to jump the vehicles was topped off.
- If you are going to use non-battery light sources like candles or oil lamps, keep a few fire extinguishers in easily accessible places. Take inventory of means of lighting candles or a fire be it a lighter or box of matches. As a prep, the wife made more egg carton, wax, and dryer lint fire starters.
What are you doing to prepare for this winter storm?
Are there other steps you’re taking you can share to assist newer preppers to make it through what’s coming? Any helpful tricks you’ve discovered? Please share in the comments below.
1stMarineJarHead is not only a former Marine, but also a former EMT-B, Wilderness EMT (courtesy of NOLS), and volunteer firefighter.
He currently resides in the great white (i.e. snowy) Northeast with his wife and dogs. He raises chickens, rabbits, goats, occasionally hogs, cows and sometimes ducks. He grows various veggies and has a weird fondness for rutabagas. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking from scratch, making charcuterie, target shooting, and is currently expanding his woodworking skills.