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Surviving Severe Winter Weather and Blizzards

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: July 4, 2019
Surviving Severe Winter Weather and Blizzards

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Those that have never lived in an area where snowfalls can be great may not understand exactly what a blackout blizzard is. This is conditions where the power goes out often, and the conditions are so that you cannot see to move outside. You pretty much have to stay put. Getting caught away from home in a blackout blizzard can be life-threatening if someone is not prepared. If you can avoid bing on the road during major snow, then it is always the first step towards safety. A lot of employers will let you go home a bit early if it means a safer trip for you.

A lot of experts are predicting that this winter will prove to be a cold one with a lot of higher than average snow fall occurring in areas. This has led to some people thinking about winter preps a little more. If you have not considered your winter preparations then perhaps now is the time. It doesn’t take much snowfall or very long of a storm to cause a lot of trouble. If you live in the suburbs or a rural area, then you may be cut off from supplies for awhile. There is no use being uncomfortable during a severe snowstorm or blizzard if you don’t have to be.

Have provisions stocked ahead of time

Blizzards are one of the many natural events that prep come in handy for. With the modern weather forecasting, technology and radar people can access from their cell phones, there is little excuse to not know well in advance that a major storm is coming. I know that weather can also just pop up to so having a week or two worth of food beverage, and medication on hand at all times during the blizzard season is recommended.

You can become trapped during a blizzard.

I advise keeping a few shovels in your house where you can get to them in case you need to shovel your way out of the house. A major blizzard can block doorways and 1st story windows in some cases. You are probably not going to be able to wait until it melts to get out so it is best to be prepared and deal with the fact you may get a little snow in the house while you are creating a way to get out.

Have an excellent car kit if you live in blizzard-prone areas

Everyone should have a car kit that can get them out of some emergency situations or break downs, but if you live in an area with severe weather, then you need to take your car kit more seriously than those of us that live in hot climates. Food, water, and warmth are critical.

Emergency blankets, a few gallons of water, and food for five days is what I would recommend along with a good medical kit. I would leave a full suit of heavyweight thermal underwear in my vehicle at all times too. A portable urinal would make it more livable if you got stuck in a black out blizzard and had to pull over. You would not want to get out of your car so a way of using the bathroom would help you avoid the temptation.

Just because you have 4 wheel or all wheel drive doesn’t mean you can go the speed limit in the snow and ice.

I see so many people charging along in the snow and ice at close to their normal speed because they think that just having a 4×4 or all wheel drive car is enough to keep them going. Sure these systems help you go but they are not going to help you stop that well. Take it easy regardless of how nice or loaded of a truck or SUV you have.

Think about others on the highway and how being too bold could change their lives forever.

Keep vehicles well maintained

It is not cheap to maintain a vehicle, but one way to avoid being broke down in a storm is to keep up with your maintenance. If you have an older vehicle that is on its last legs, then you may want to consider not using it too much in the winter if you can avoid trips out.

Know when to pull over

Keeping going during whiteout conditions is very dangerous. At the same time, it can be hazardous or impossible to pull over in a lot of places, so you may have to make a difficult choice. If you really are starting to have trouble seeing, then you need to be looking for a place to pull over and give it some time.

Now is not the time to try to make it to the next exit where there is a less expensive hotel. Conditions can deteriorate rapidly, and you can find yourself stuck in your car for hours when you could have got a room for the night.

Being Stuck Due To Blizzards

Sometimes we experienced really bad blizzards in western Washington. My dad was working in some of the sawmills and lumberyards, and he would sometimes have to drive back on back roads under some terrible conditions. He tried to avoid doing it when he could, but it was not always possible.

The nearest grocery store was 10 miles away and the roads to get to them were pretty bad when it snowed. We had a very small store that sold some basics but no gas or anything like that. You had to be stocked up and prepared to live out there.

It was possible that it would be icy and treacherous for three days. Kids visiting other kids would find themselves stuck at their buddies house because they couldn’t make it 30 miles back on the bus because of no service.

Being stuck has a worse effect on some than others. This is why you see so many people out during blizzards and snow when they should be at home.

Stay Warm

Ah, I do love wood heat because it is reliable. If I have wood and a fire source I can stay warm. I would never want to rely on just an electric heat source or heaters that require electricity to run parts of their systems. The likelihood of no electricity during a major weather event is substantial.

We live close enough to town that our power is never out for more than a few hours because it is generally just a tree falling on a transformer or something like that. Ice storms can be terrible though. You can be trapped inside because the entire outside area is just slick like glass.

Heaters that are not electric are handy during a blackout blizzard.

Best Kerosene Heater For Emergencies & Safety Tips

Make sure to bring in firewood/fuel ahead of time

If a storm is coming then make sure to put some extra firewood inside so you can avoid going out in the weather and risking an injury by falling down. If you are trying to avoid a mess, you can put a plastic tote in your house and fill it with firewood or use as a base for a stack in your house. We use milk crates for kindling.

Check fuel levels in oil tanks and propane units.

Topping off before the storm may be a good idea if you are running a little low. Remember that trucks can have a hard time getting to you after a bad storm and demand will be high. You can pick up 5 or 10 gallons of heating oil at a gas station and have it in reserve to top off a low tank during an emergency.

Remember entertainment

I don’t care where you find yourself in a blackout blizzard; there is a good chance that having something to entertain yourself with would be appreciated. Those that keep an e-reader with some books on it and charged up are usually pretty prepared. That is one of the things I love about an e-reader. You can have a whole library on one low drain device that charges with a USB.

If you are at home, then your entertainment options may be a bit better. If you have some backup power, then that is a big help. I love the Goal Zero Yeti 400 I have. It is plenty to keep devices going, and it is light enough for me to lift by myself. If you get the lithium version that costs a bit more, it weighs half what the NiCad version I have weighs.

Have your vice on hand

If you have a vice, then it is best to have some extra. I am not saying your vices should be your priority, but you may want to avoid the discomfort of doing without if you really don’t have to. Chocolate, Nicotine, Soda, Energy Drinks, whatever it might be, have a week on hand.

Keeping Up Morale & Finding Entertainment During Hard Times

Have an alternative cooking method

My gas range eyes can be used without electricity, but my oven will not work without power. I have a Camp Chef stove/oven that uses propane that I can use in an emergency as well as a grill with a griddle and grill box. The oven and stove can be used inside so that would be my choice for a situation where I didn’t want to be grilling. If you have a covered area that is clear then cooking outside during somewhat cold conditions may not be so bad, but this will depend on the severity of your weather.

The Camp Chef uses 1 lb propane canisters like those that are used for small torches. These canisters are very easy to find. You can hook a bigger tank up if you have the right regular set up. They sell a kit I believe. I mean if I can bake a 13 x 9 casserole and have two stove eyes for other courses, I would be doing okay in an emergency even if there were a lot of people to cook for. I have looked for various ways to cook without power, and I have to say that at this price, the oven/stove is the best deal out there for a new stove especially.

For more details on the Camp Chef Oven, check out my post  “A Review Of The Camp Chef Oven Outdoor Gas Range

Be ready to melt snow and filter for drinking water

Snow melts fast when brought into a warm house. You can run this through a good filter and be fine for drinking water during the emergency. Snow is some “fluffy” water so you might be surprised how much snow it takes to melt into a single quart of water. This is another reason it may be good to have a few food grade buckets on hand during an emergency since you can haul so many things in them if needed.

Relax the rules for pets

During a big storm just bring your animals in so that they have reasonable shelter. I have dogs that like the cold, but we make sure during bad weather they have a place to get out of it. Smaller dogs and less tough breeds have it rougher. Just bring them in and be happy they are safe.

Keep a week or more of pet food on hand

You need to be able to feed your pets for a week. That is a good cushion. There are people foods that are okay to feed to dogs, but you probably are not going to want to cook for pets during an emergency if you don’t have to.

If space is limited you can get freeze-dried pet foods that while not cheap, are very high quality and you can store the equivalent of 40 lbs of food in a 10 lb box that fits on a shelf.

Don’t wander too far

Blackout blizzards can mean whiteout conditions that cause severe disorientation. This effect can be greater if someone is under stress like an injury, exhaustion, or hypothermia. It is best to stay inside and do not go out until visibility is better. Some people that do go out tie a rope to where they are leaving from and then hold on to it or tie it to their belt even so they can find their way back. It is not a bad idea, especially if you are snowed in alone and must get to something like an animal in the barn.

Have proper winter clothing

Hey, I know that good clothes can be hard to find, but I have learned to shop smart and not be picky about colors so much. I also shop out of season. I recommend keeping tabs on the LL Bean Clearance Section and taking advantage of further discounts when advertised. No one needs to be wearing cotton thermals during a major cold situation or wet conditions. If you live in a cold place, then take inventory of what you have if you were without heat for a day or two.

Best Clothing To Have On Hand For SHTF

Avoiding lost work time

During a major blizzard, the cleanup and recovery may prevent you from being able to get to or do your job. Some occupations may want to ask about telecommuting. In a case where your job is largely on a computer anyway, you may be able to do work at home even if you can’t get to your job.

Have plenty of supplies for babies

If you get stuck at home for days due to a blizzard, you certainly don’t want to be running out of diapers, food products, etc. Canned baby foods and those in pouches are great for emergencies. Formula or powdered milk is another staple that you should have put back. Goats milk comes in a powder form and is excellent milk for young kids.

What are you doing around your place to get more prepared for snow?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]

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4 Responses to “Surviving Severe Winter Weather and Blizzards”

  1. During any high snow event or even modest snow that is combined with wind, I always make sure my furnace vents and standby generator intake and exhaust are kept clear of snow. Last thing I want is for carbon monoxide to ruin my family’s day….
    And yeah, while I snicker at the folks who think the 4WD in their SUVs make them invincible, I always take extra caution near intersections. One year that may have saved my life as I saw an SUV fly out of an industrial park and spin around multiple times in the intersection before finally skidding to a stop off the road. They drove on a minute later so I didn’t have to check on them, but if I had kept going at normal speeds and expected that they would stop at the stop sign, then they would have T-boned me….
    Oh, back to massive snow piles…make sure at least one exit from your home opens inward. If you have a storm door outside your regular door, make sure that you can remove the glass and step through it in case you’ve got a couple feet of snow piled up against it…. As long as you can get out at least one door then you can walk through the snow to get access to the other exits and clear them as well.
    Keep safe out there!

  2. Those ppl who drive way faster than they should be make me laugh, because they are the ones ending up in the ditch, LOL! IDK who gives me the finger for driving slow…just remember to put your flashers on especially on the highway and country roads…This was a good reminder to refresh the gas for the gennie. I’d already planned to stock up on more kerosene. We are tied to grid electric and gas, but don’t rely on them solely, as our area is prone to frequent power outages. I tend to be a little lax on keeping the vehicle gas tanks topped off in the summer, but not in the winter. Like Penrod, we keep extra clothing and blankets in the vehicle. Metal can with a roll of TP (multi purpose) and a sterno or two as well. I work 5 minutes from home, DH works anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour away, so our car kits look a little different, not too much, in case we need to switch vehicles for some reason.

  3. The Mr. Heater Buddy Heaters operate on propane, are safe to use indoors, easily carried, and reasonably priced. They are also easy to use and make great gifts.
    Don’t forget back-up light sources that use common fuel and batteries.

  4. Car kit: when I lived in Wisconsin I kept a number of candles and boxes of matches in the vehicle. Also something to stick them in while lit. A tin cup, a metal plate, or even a tin can work fine.

    Chocolate bars are good in winter, but get pretty awful in summer. Lifeboat rations work year around, tho.

    I kept spare winter clothes in case I got stuck while driving somewhere in street clothes. A couple sets of sweat pants and sweat shirts, boots with felt liners, heavy socks, hat -balaclava style- ,blankets, and warm mittens. You need to be able to dig out without getting frostbite.

    Also a good stiff shovel like an old fashioned coal shovel, a bag of sand, and heavy rope or a tow strap in case someone comes along who can pull you out of a ditch. A come-along with a long cable could also be handy in some areas.

    Keeping the gas tank pretty well filled is all the more important in winter because with fuel, you can run the heater cautiously. You do not want to run it if the tail pipe is clogged tho, because you can kill yourself with carbon monoxide.

    A cable and adapter for charging your cell phone could save your life.

    And remember adequate supplies in case you get stuck with passengers.

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