"A Winter Storm approaches!"
"Initiate the French Toast Protocol!"
*Everyone runs to the store for milk, eggs and bread*
We may laugh, but for New Englanders this is the common reaction for many folks. Everyone and their mother will go the night before a big storm to grab last minute groceries, usually including milk and bread. While I don't know how many people make french toast, I always questioned the last minute scramble for simple items.
While it makes sense to stock up, the grocery stores are usually mobbed with grumpy people and stressed staff. I like to avoid the grocery store the day before a big storm, mostly for my own stress levels!
Preparing for a Winter Storm
Consider these 10 alternative actions to the French Toast Protocol
Action #1 Cover Windows with Plastic
Covering the windows with a thin layer of plastic may seem useless but it creates a barrier between the outside wind and your home. The plastic insulates the window, giving you another layer of protection. The window plastic also breaks drafts and will show you which windows may leak cold air into your home.
Plastic over the windows can reduce your heating needs and can be a great resource for those who live in apartments where they can't fix the drafty window but have to make do with cheap, remove-able options.
Plastic window kits can usually be found in hardware stores in the North but I understand they can be harder to find in warmer climates. My sister reported that she called 5 different hardware stores in Dallas,TX looking for the plastic window kits; some had not even understood what she was asking for.
Action #2 Refill Propane Tank (for gas grill, gas heater, etc)
If you have a propane grill or space heater, check your propane tanks are filled and ready to go. A grill could be a cooking source if the power goes out. The Mr. Heater space heaters are approved for indoor use and run on propane, perfect for heating during a power outage. (Check your local and state regulations on the legality of indoor burning space heaters.)
Learn more about heating options during a power outage: 7 Steps for Heating Your Home During a Power Outage
Action #3 Fill your Car with Gas
Hopefully the gas station is not as mobbed as the grocery store. Stocking up on gas before a storm may be on the minds of other folks too, especially those with a gas powered back-up generators. Even if you don't have a generator, having a full tank of gas will prepare you for any post-storm travels.
This will also give you some leeway to warm the car up, without worrying about running out of gas in the driveway. (I have heard some towns now banning running unoccupied cars; not sure if that is an environmental or a safety thing?)
Action #4 Fill Extra Containers with Drinking Water
If you suspect that you may lose power, or worry about pipes freezing, it may be a good idea to fill an extra containers with water. The extra drinking water could extend your normal water supplies in the event there a power outage and the water pump is not working or there is an issue with the city water system. In my view, you can never go wrong with having extra clean drinking water on hand.
Learn more about water storage: 5 Steps to Evaluating Water Security during a Power Outage
Action #5 Pack your Freezer with Bags of Water/Ice
While filling extra container with drinking water, pack some into your freezer. It will act as ice in an ice box if the power goes out, and will still be drinking water when it thaws. Although, in a winter storm, the world may be your ice box!
Action #6 Find your Snow Shovel + Snow Gear
On the last snow storm, we were getting ready to go out and shovel but Tim couldn't find his snow boots. He looks out at his car covered in one foot snow and says, "I think my snow boots are in the car." I went first and retrieved them for him, but this shows the need for locating all your snow gear before the storm.
While it great to keep boots in the car, in case emergencies happen on the road, having them in the house during a snow storm would be great too.
Locating snow removal supplies like snow shovels and snow brushes for the car before it snows will save you the headache of searching. It will also save you the headache of discovering there is two feet of snow between you and your snow shovel.
Action #7 Review your Power-Outage Protocol
Review with your family the established power outage plan. As a kid, I knew power outages meant getting flashlights (my favorite small flashlight) and candles. Make sure you and your kids know where the flashlights are stored and check that they are functional.
Action #8 Take Care of your Body
Drink a glass of water, go to sleep early, and prepare physically for shoveling. While this may silly for those in physical labor jobs, for urban desk workers shoveling snow may be the most physically intensive thing they do. Take care of your body, it's the only place you have to live.
Action #9 Stop by the library
Stock up on extra reading material, movies, or board games. Being stuck inside with a raging storm doesn't have to be terrible and boring, look into other options for inside fun. Bonus, check out eBooks from the library without having to drive!
Books I have enjoyed:
- One Second After by William R. Forstchen
- Written to draw attention to the vulnerability of the US to an EMP attack, this book highlights that major societal changes following the destruction of all electronic devices. Disease, food, weapons, transportation, mental illness, and community cooperation are covered by following the narrative of a man and his family throughout the year following an EMP burst that disables the entire United States. Great book for understanding preparations that can be made today to prevent some of the hardship faced by the characters.
- All But My Life by Gerda Weissman-Klein
- Follows the story of Gerda as a first person true story account of the holocaust. She is almost to death when an American military solider finds her and rescues her with others. The story follows her long battle through concentration camps, losing everything she owned but her life.
- “Why? Why did we walk like meek sheep to the slaughter house? Why did we not fight back? What had we to lose? Nothing but our lives. Why did we not run away and hide? Why did we walk deliberately and obediently into their clutches? I know why. Because we had faith in humanity. Because we did not really think that human beings were capable of committing such crimes.” (P 51)
- The Martian by Andy Weir
- A great story of one man's struggle to survive alone on Mars after an accident leaves him stranded. His witty humor makes light of the situation as he deals with loneliness, boredom, stress, trials, and an excess of disco music. It is close to the movie and is a pleasurable adventure into life on a different planet with surprisingly accurate science.
Action #10 Get cozy
Hopefully long before the snow is predicted you have a short-term food solution for your family, so you aren't in danger of running out of edible foods (even if they aren't your favorite). Now is the time to rest easy knowing you have supplies to smooth through the storm, paired with the knowledge and drive to improvise and survive. Now it's time for an extra blanket on the couch and cuddling with family.
If you must, go to the grocery store early in the day, not during the after-work time. I am guilty of once making a quick stop the night before the storm for bacon, because I really wanted corned-beef hash and bacon for breakfast on my snow day. Normally I choose to not have enough time to cook a big breakfast on weekdays, so my next chance would be a weekend.
Likely this would align with my next normal shopping trip, and I would have sufficed without bacon during the week. However, as it was to be a snow day, I would have the opportunity to cook breakfast and really wanted bacon.
The 20 minutes spent waiting in line to check-out were not a waste of my time, the bacon was delicious.
What actions do you take before a winter storm? Do you crack a beer and watch others scramble or join the scramble yourself? Let us know in the comments below.