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Winter Preparedness: Getting Ready For Snowstorms and Blizzards

I have lived in the Midwest all my life. Snow, snowstorms, ice storms, and blizzards are just a part of life. In fact, you can get a bit immune to them. You know almost exactly when the school is going to let out early or call it for the day. With the great advances in technology, you know when the storms are going to hit which gives us ample time to get ready. 

Some storms are definitely worse than others. Some storms will only last a few hours and not really put any hitch into any plans. Some storms (aka blizzards) will interrupt your plans and life for a few days. It's pretty rare that any storm lasts for more than three days here, but I never rule out that possibility. 

When a winter storm approaches and looks like it will be a bad one, I have checklists that I use as a plan of action. In Iowa, the weather can get nasty fairly quickly. With the technology we have, I can implement my lists quickly because I know when the winter storms are approaching. I do use these lists with the mindset that the worst is going to happen to us: losing power, not being able to use outside cooking sources due to wind, and that this could be several days or just a few hours.

Since my water is from a well, I have some things to consider. The well pump is electrically powered. Much of my home storm checklist is directed towards losing power because we will lose water. I always make sure I have plenty of water on hand. I also do everything that may take water a priority on my list. I do not want to melt snow or boil water to do dishes if I do not have to nor do I want to have laundry piled up to the ceiling.

This list will not be the same for everyone. If you have livestock, your list will be different. If you have small children, your list will be different. Everyone has different circumstances and needs. My list is also based on the fact that I have multiple hands and a lot of the things on the list can be done simultaneously. If I lived by myself, this list would be done over a few days.

Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist

When leaving work and/or school on the day before the storm:
1. Fill cars with gas
2. Get some cash from ATM
3. Buy any necessities we might be low on (milk, water, fruit, vegetables, personal and paper items)
4. Buy any cat, dog, and chicken food if needed

At home:
1. Gather all laundry and start the washing machine
2. Wash all dishes
3. Fill buckets, water dispenser, and pitchers with water
4. Everyone takes a shower at some point during the day
5. Park all vehicles inside and shut garage doors
6. Bring a snow shovel inside the house
7. Barn and chicken coop doors need to be closed tightly
8. Outdoors animals get fed and watered
9. Make sure the heated water dish is plugged in and working in the garage and coop
10. Plug in all cell phones and computers to charge
11. Shut and lock any other doors outside that need to be shut
12. Do any cleaning in the house that requires water or power
13. Make food that can be eaten without power: granola, granola bars, etc.
14. Take care of any online needs like paying bills or responding to correspondence
15. Have kids do homework especially if it needs to be done on the computer
16. Have coolers ready to go outside to hold any perishables if the fridge or freezer loses power for over four hours
17. Take a walk outside to make sure everything is put away and/or in its place.
18. Make sure propane cylinders are full and the carbon monoxide detector is ready to go for back up heat. 

Additional things you may need to do:
1. Make sure you have plenty of fuel for your generator and do a test run.
2. Clear any snow or debris away from your meters and gas regulators on your house and other buildings.
3. If you burn wood, have a pile stacked by the house ready to go as well as an ample supply in the house.
4. Have the tractor/snowblower full of gas, ready to go, and plugged in if needed

Going to work and/or school on the day of the storm:
1. Have an overnight bag ready just in case I am caught at work or can't leave town
2. Have my phone charger with me (or have a backup one in the car)
3. Have enough water, drinks, and snacks to last a couple days at minimum
4. Make sure my food stash at work is fully stocked (soup, crackers, tea, coffee, etc.)
5. Make sure my emergency supplies are fully stocked in the car in case I get stranded

Different living situations will determine your list of things to do. I prepare for a 1-3 day power outage which can go longer. If you live in a town or city, your list may look different. If you live even more rurally than I do, your list may look more extensive than mine. Like I mentioned before, storms rarely last more than a day or two here, but I never rule out the possibility of a storm lasting longer than that. 

Like I said, this is the worst-case scenario thinking. I would rather be safe than sorry if something were to happen over multiple days especially with no power or water.

Thanks for reading,

(Originally published in January 2014. Rewritten and expanded January 2021)

Check out these books also to help you be more prepared for the future! 

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