You know the weather event that I dread more than snow.
An ice storm.
The ice storm can turn roads and paths into an ice skating rank in no time at all. Just 1/10 of an inch of ice can lead to massive chaos. New Year’s Eve two years back led to people barely making it home. The law enforcement vehicles were running off the road.
How To Survive an Ice Storm
Pay attention to weather patterns
Rain and then dropping temperatures can lead to ice rather than snow. During the winter months, you should pay more attention to the weather. I use Weather Underground but since the Weather Channel bought the site, it has been a bit cumbersome to use at times.
If there is an ice storm warning, take steps to avoid having to go outside.
When we have an ice storm warning, Matt and I stage our stuff so that we can get to things outside that are necessary with greater ease. For example, we put out extra animal feed such as hay. When we had geese we would put out auto feeders of corn or grains for them. As far as dogs, we get the dog food dishes gathered and fill them with food and put some extra food in a bin near the back door. This way we just have to go a few feet to put out dog food instead of sliding all over the place.
Plan for power outages
Ice storms bring down power lines and trees. This can lead to extended power outages. You need to be prepared for this.
Have back up power for medical equipment people in your home need.
Loss of power is inconvenient but if someone has to rely on medical equipment it can be an extremely serious situation. Check how much backup power and batteries you have and how long they will last. If it is less than 72 hours, you might want to invest in more back up power.
Basic Ice Storm Preparedness
Make sure you have plenty of lighting such as good flashlights and lanterns along with a substantial supply of batteries.
Have enough food and water on hand to last at least a week.
A lot of you seasoned preppers already have this taken care of but in the winter months, you may want to add a few snacks, comfort foods, and beverages to your stash of food. Remember that during cold times, you will burn more calories when maintaining your body heat.
If a storm is approaching, fill some containers with water for drinking.
Matt and I have a 3-gallon Igloo water cooler and some other smaller containers we fill up when we know a storm is on the way. This gives us a little cushion so we don’t have to take more drastic measures immediately.
Ice and snow can be melted and filtered as a water source if needed.
I always exercise caution when it comes to snow and ice for drinking water. Between pollution and any contamination from ground or roof contact, it is best to melt and then filter any ice or snow if you want to drink it. If you are just using it for flushing a toilet, that is different.
Have some way to cook or heat up basic foods.
You can do a lot if you can simply boil a pot of something like soup or stew. Plenty of people use their grills and a 20 lb propane tank and cook during winter storms. During an ice storm, you are not going to want to be outside but when the ice stops falling, if a grill is in a safe place to get to, it may be worth considering.
There are all kinds of emergency cooking stoves out there. If you have a wood stove, putting a pot of soup or stew on to cook in a pot is a great idea for dinner. I remember as a teenager, I would just grab a can of beef stew from the pantry and put it in a pot to heat on the woodstove if the power was out. Canned soup or stew from the store or your pantry doesn’t take long to be warm and delicious.
If you can a lot of foods, you can have some great convenience food. A quart of home-canned stew will feed 4 adults a hearty dinner if you have some crackers and a little cheese or something to go with it.
Keep your gas tank half full at all times.
It is important to have fuel during a power outage because gas pumps require electricity. This means if you are stuck traveling or if a power outage is extended, you may not be able to get fuel when needed.
Consider investing in some backup power for short emergencies.
Small battery banks and power centers are much more affordable than they used to be. For under $250 you can have a pretty substantial source of power that you can plug a standard device in and also enjoy USB and 12V charging capability. Solar panels can be added at some other point or you can charge your power center off of your car’s 12-volt system.
At our house, we have 12V outlets in the house and solar panels so we have a ton of charging options for our power centers. We can use an external portable panel, plug it into the house 12-volt system, or use our regular 110V power system.
A lot of electronics are very conservative when it comes to energy consumption. This means that you can keep some things going longer than you might expect without a huge investment.
I like the Jackery Explorer 240 for a moderately sized yet lightweight back up power option. Here is a link to my review.
Look for hazards around your yard and any nearby trees and landscaping.
Our dogs love to carry around their dog food dishes and we sometimes feed them wherever they happen to be at the time. This means that we have a bunch of dishes that can become tripping and slipping hazards when they get covered with ice and snow.
Garden hoses are notorious tripping and slipping hazards. Make sure all these things are nowhere that you need to walk during inclement weather. We just pick up everything just in case.
Trees that are too close to your house or that are overgrown are major causes for concern as winter approaches. An electric limbing saw is under $100 and can go a long way towards getting rid of small to moderate hazards. If you have larger trees then you may need to get some help.
Utility companies will sometimes take care of some hazards if they are close to overhead lines. Those that live in town often are forced to get professional tree crews for large jobs that are close to neighbors or common roadways. This can be expensive but putting it off can lead to tragedy. A little boy in a nearby town within the last year almost lost his life due to a landlord not wanting to spend $2,000 on tree removal. He was pinned for hours. It was awful.
Consider your refrigerated and frozen foods.
Your power may be off for a long time depending on the severity of the storm and the number of outages reported. It is recommended that before major winter weather you should turn your fridge and freezer to the lowest temperature you can. This will make sure that everything is as cold as possible so it will stay at a safe temperature for a longer period of time.
Remember that some frozen or refrigerated foods may be better off in coolers placed outside during an extended storm-related outage. Use the cold outside temperatures to your advantage if you need to. Some people say this is a bad idea but the reason for that is that they don’t pay attention to the food and allow it to freeze.
You have to be careful and bring food in if temperatures become severe. If you have a garage or outbuilding, putting food in a cooler and in one of those places can help it stay in a more reasonable temperature range.
Unplug appliances and computers until the power comes back on.
It is best to play it safe when it comes to power surges. Some of you may have some good power surge protection and even a small battery backup in case the power goes out when you are working on your computer. A UPC is affordable and can help protect sudden data loss.
Have some way to keep yourself and your family entertained.
Board games, books, e-readers, tablets, and more come to mind. Craft projects are another option. Of course, anything that requires batteries or electricity you will need to plan to have some small battery banks or extra batteries on hand for extended events.
Keep some extra blankets on hand as well as a few mylar blankets for additional warmth.
In severe cases being too cold can be deadly but even just struggling to stay warm a bit can lead to poor morale and disgruntlement. Let me give you an example. When Matt and I were building the house, I thought it would be a great idea to just move in during the summer. Well, we didn’t get the insulation in before it got cold. We spent a few months sitting around in many layers of clothing using a wood stove to add a little extra heat. Neither one of us felt our best during that time and we found it hard to keep a positive attitude.
Assess your winter clothing situation and stock up.
Extra clothing on hand is an important part of being prepared. It may seem like there are a ton of clothes out there but if they are not where you need them they are not going to do you a lot of good.
Here is a link to my post on clothing to have on hand for winter.
For best results, everyone should have a morale pack put back for times when it is needed like long term weather events.
Your morale pack could be a variety of things from treasured snacks, crafts, beverages, books, pens, and paper, etc. Here are some links to a few posts I wrote that discusses morale packs more in-depth.
Normality During An Extended Emergency: An Overview Of What to Put Back and How To Keep Up Morale
Keeping Up Morale and Finding Entertainment During Hard Times
Make sure all pets and livestock have adequate food, water, and shelter
Ice can actually kill animals if the temps are bitter and their breath freezes. Just a simple roof over them can make all the difference but something that provides more protection and warmth are better. Old barns that do not have good roofs may be dangerous.
I have to stress the fact that you need to take the time to put out extra food, bedding, or in the case of dogs and cats, allow them inside. Ice and extreme cold can be deadly to some animals. Not all breeds are created the same. Just look at a little Chihuahua and then a Great Pyrenees dog. I have had both and the Great Pyrenees actually want to be out in the snow and can take a lot of cold. I would not want then out in an ice storm or a severe blizzard but they are a lot tougher than some dog breeds and sometimes refuse to come in during heavy snow.
Invest in a good emergency radio with NOAA weather band capability.
Emergency radios in modern times can do a lot. Even a basic Kaito has a slot for an SD card so you can load cards with audiobooks, old-time radio shows, and music of your own choosing. Off and on over the last 16 years, I have used Old Time Radio Downloads to get classic mystery and sci-fi radio shows. They are not copyrighted any longer so they are free for download. I reviewed several Kaito radios that have an SD card and mp3 capability.
Turn your faucets on to a trickle and leave them that way if you still have water service.
Leaving water trickling is far better than dealing with the trouble and expense that can result due to a burst pipe. Even if you have fairly well-insulated plumbing, if it is cold enough you may still want to take some additional precautions.
If your pipes are not well insulated then now is the time to get that taken care of.
It is an easy job to insulate your pipes yourself as long as you can do a little overhead work and maybe get on a ladder if you have a full basement. You can get insulation that wraps around pipes as well as sleeves that have adhesive and just slip on to lengths of pipe. These products are all trimmable with no more than a pair of scissors.
If your water doesn’t run without power and you have no good source of heat, consider draining your water system.
To prevent pipes bursting when things thaw, those with no water and no power, may be able to easily drain water from pipes. To do this you need to locate the lowest point in your water system. For many, this is a spicket on the outside of the house or maybe a hot water heater. If you have a spicket that is the lowest point, you can attach a hose and run it downhill and then open it up to drain your system. This may be a lot of water, depending on the size of the system. Consider saving the water you drain for flushing toilets, drinking, or watering livestock and pets.
Consider what you can do to reduce the loss of heat in your home.
Even small cracks and gaps or a lack of insulation in some areas can make a huge difference in the heating and cooling of your home. Foam insulation in a can and silicone caulk is inexpensive and effective at sealing up small leaks and waterproofing. Caulk is nice because most of it is completely paintable with some being ready to paint within 20 minutes.
Do not go out and add to the chaos
Stay at home if at all possible. Too many people are determined to go about their business or they are simply nosy or stir crazy. Don’t be that person. Life is precious and there is no use in risking your life or endangering others.
Pull over before you run off the road.
Pushing it when you shouldn’t can get you into a lot of trouble.
Trying to drive in an ice storm is a recipe for disaster no matter how good your tires are or what type of vehicle you have. If it starts getting really icy, consider the best place to pull over or park and take refuge. I would rather ride out a major ice storm in a bar or restaurant than on the side of the road. The deli section at a grocery store and a place to sit and ride it out means you at least have food and water nearby instead of getting into your survival rations.
Don’t forget about thawing and refreezing.
After a big snow or ice storm, thawing a little bit and then refreezing can make conditions extremely dangerous. The best time to venture out is during the slushy time and then get home before things freeze again if you must go out.
Sometimes car emergency kits are very basic and while it is good to have something rather than nothing, you should consider the other people that travel in the vehicle quite often. Something to keep the kids entertained is beyond the scope of a lot of car emergency kits but it sure will make life easier if you have to shelter in place in a car for an hour or two. Remember that kids lose body heat faster than adults so extra emergency blankets and clothing in the winter months are a good idea.
Stay out of buildings that have roofs that are not structurally sound.
Ice can collapse a roof and it seems to happen in basically every ice storm. Older barns and even some rooms in older homes, particularly those that have roofs that do not shed snow well can be very dangerous during times when a lot of ice or snow accumulates. This is important to remember if you are building any shelter or building in an area that can sometimes get heavy snowfall.