Winter Storm Watch: Being Prepared for Winter Weather

During the 2013-2014 winter, Americans were amazed as intense and unprecedented snow and ice storms wreaked havoc on cities and towns throughout the nation. The storms cut power lines, froze water pipes, and covered streets and walkways with dangerously deep snow and slick ice. While some people rejoiced that the wind and weather closed schools and offices for a few days and allowed for more time with family and friends, most people found themselves totally unprepared for the icy attack.

While most weather professionals are predicting that the 2014-15 winter will not be nearly as extreme or harsh as last year’s, it still remains wise to have all the necessary tools and equipment to see you and your family through until spring. The climate is exceedingly complex, and even professionals make wildly incorrect estimates that affect everyone. Expect the unexpected, and stock your home with these essentials for severe winter weather.

Preparations for Any Winter, Anywhere

Both your home and each of your vehicles should be equipped with a winter survival kit to keep you and yours safe during dangerous winter weather. While all kits should contain a few necessities, savvy survivalists would do well to include a few less-common items to ensure their safety when deep winter really starts to wreak havoc.

In your car, you should always carry tools to keep your car running in case of failure, but when outside temperatures begin to drop dangerously low, it is more important than ever that you keep your vehicle in working condition. In your car, you should always have access to:

  • Tow chain or rope
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency flares or reflectors
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Windshield scraper or broom
  • Kitty litter, sand, or road salt

These items will keep your engine humming in any scenario, but during an ice or snow storm, the heat from your vehicle is all that separates you from a chilly demise. However, to protect yourself in the event that your vehicle fails in the midst of dangerous winter weather, you should also have on hand:

  • Shovel
  • First aid kit and necessary medications
  • Pocket knife or utility knife
  • Water
  • Food, including dried fruits and energy bars
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Extra winter clothes, especially hats, mittens, and socks
  • Cell phone adapter

In your home, you have more space to devote to winter survival preparations — but you also have more responsibilities. Unlike being stranded in a vehicle, when you are snowed into your home, you will likely be there for an extended period of time and need to care for more than one or two people. Emergency preparations for the home are usually overlooked, though they are often more crucial than any other kind of emergency provisions.

First, you must be aware of the important locations in your home, and we don’t mean the kitchen and bathroom. Locate shutoff valves for water and gas, and understand where the circuit breakers are for the different areas of your house. You should educate the other members of the house on these procedures as well; speed and efficiency have saved many homes and lives from a cold, wintery doom.

Next, fill your pantry with a variety of nonperishable foods. Try to rotate these foods to keep them fresh — even though it takes a while for canned foods to spoil, you can still taste old from new — and make sure you have a few different types so everyone isn’t eating the same meal for a week.

There are a few other essentials for winter survival you likely already have in your home but wouldn’t think necessary during an emergency until you really need them. A tool kit for simple, quick repairs will keep out the cold during a winter emergency, and alternative light and heat sources (like firewood, candles, blankets, etc.) will keep spirits and temperatures up during even the darkest of winter nights.
Still, one of the most overlooked items for winter survival is a means of communication to the outside world. Phone lines are easily knocked over during even gentler winter storms, and cell reception can get spotty when towers are covered in layers of snow. Be sure you’re able to communicate with authorities and emergency services by investing in permanent satellite phone coverage. When the power goes out and the worst happens, you can trust in your connection to the outside world. Plus, many providers are beginning to offer satellite internet.

Predictions for Winter 2014-2015

Because of the mess caused by inaccurate or late predictions for last year’s winter, weather analysts are working hard this year to provide early and smart information on the impending season. The polar vortex that caused so many problems last winter could still prove a problem for the Midwest and Northeast this year. Inhabitants of these regions should expect a few days of below-zero temperatures and arctic winds, though not nearly the same as those experienced in the 2013-2014 winter season.

Most analysts say that the bouts of arctic chill will not be nearly as long-lasting this year, especially in the Midwest; they even predict that the Midwest’s winter will be at much as 10 degrees warmer than last year. The Midwest isn’t expected to experience nearly as much snowfall as even a normal winter. Researchers predict that students and workers should have clear roads for almost the full duration of the winter.

Unfortunately, the same cannot necessarily be said for the Northeast. In some regions, particularly the I-95 corridor, higher-than-normal snowfall is expected, and a dangerous mix of winter weather will make the area virtually impassable for safety-conscious travelers.

In other regions of the U.S., citizens would be wise to make winter preparations, as itinerant weather may make its way into unexpected regions. January and February storms are predicted to travel as far south as the Gulf Coast. No one is completely safe from dangerous winter weather, which is why a winter safety kit is important to prepare before the season sets in.

Written by Steve Manley