Those that live in the Midwest in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennesee, and Illinois (and other states) during 2009 talk about the ice storm. I lived in Missouri at the time and I can remember how it started out as something that was pretty cool but after a few days of no power, it was awful.
Then this year we were forecasted for another huge ice storm here in Kentucky. Luckily most of us in this area had learned our lesson and knew what to plan for. But there were those that lived here that had no idea what it is like to get ready for a winter storm, especially an ice storm.
Why are ice storms so bad?
One of the main reasons ice storms are so bad is trees and power lines. If the electric company cannot keep trees away from power lines the power outages will be bad. Hopefully, your power company comes and trims the trees back every few years to help prevent this. But sometimes they get too busy and don’t make it out.
Also, power lines themselves can get too much ice and become heavy and either snap the lines or pull down weak poles and cause power outages.
When the power goes out this is a big problem for most Americans. We need power for almost everything in our house. Even most central heat and air units need powers to blow the air throughout the house even if they are gas heaters. Not being able to keep your house warm can lead to frozen pipes and other issues.
An issue in our homes is noise. When there is no power the lack of noise in the house is kind of creepy. We like having our white noise to sleep so having fans run at night (even in winter) is a necessity for us.
How do you prepare your family for a winter storm?
Preparing for a winter storm is something everyone should take seriously. Unless you live in the deep deep south the chances are you will get affected by a winter storm at some point in your life. Those that live up north and get snow regularly are used to the winter weather so if you are reading this from those states you may not get much use out of this list.
Depending on who provides your water, if the power goes out you may not have running water. Some water companies have their own backup generators to keep the water flowing, some use gravity-driven water towers so the water supply can keep coming. But if you are on your own well or your water company doesn’t have working generators, you need extra water.
Bottled water is a start but can only last so long. I have seen some people recommend filling a bathtub right before the storm with water then you at least have a reliable source of water for flushing toilets and other needs and can be used to drink in a pinch.
If you have a bad ice storm the roads might be impassible for a few days. We usually grocery shop for an entire week but if a storm hits on a Friday we might be low on food. Just make sure and get plenty of non-perishable items that won’t require to be frozen.
It will be cold but there is still a danger of not keeping your food at the right temps to keep them safe. You may have to rely on canned goods like soups or do some pasta with just sauce and no meat. My kids always enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so we make sure we have plenty of that on hand.
Flashlights and Lanterns
When the power goes out during the day it isn’t so bad because you have your natural daylight to help you. But when the power goes out at night and especially during the winter when the days are shorter you are going to want lights in the house. Kids can get scared easily by the dark and having some battery-powered flashlights and lanterns can help illuminate your house and make the kids feel at ease.
I would highly recommend getting LED lanterns and flashlights as they will last the longest and shine the brightest. Also, get some headlamps that the kids can strap to their heads so they can see as they walk and have both hands free.
I found that in some of my light fixtures I would take small LED flashlights and put them in the light fixture to help diffuse the light and act as a light bulb. Most of them will run for hours without having to change batteries.
Battery Powered Fan
Everyone in our house is used to having noise when they sleep at night. We invested in some rechargeable fans and when we know a weather event is coming we plug them up a day in advance to make sure they are fully charged. They also make fans that take batteries if that seems like a better choice for your household.
Battery Powered Radio
A small battery-powered radio is also an option if your kids would do better listening to music to fall asleep. But a radio is also a good thing to have in case the cell phone towers lose signal. You can get important news and information about the weather on your radio.
All these battery-powered items need some batteries. Make sure to stock up on required batteries before the storm hits. I try to always keep a good supply of AA and AAA batteries on hand because that is what most of my flashlights and lanterns take.
If the heat goes out and you have to rely on an alternate source of heat or no heat your house will get cold quickly. You will want extra blankets to cover your kids to help keep them warm. You may also want to get out some sleeping bags and have the kids sleep in sleeping bags.
We use portable chargers when we go camping to charge our phones at night. But having some good ones charged and ready to go before a winter storm is a smart idea if the power goes out. Late last year we had a tornado come really close to our house and it knocked out power for days. We used those portable chargers to keep our phones charged so we could still get news and weather.
Cards or Board Games
No power means no TV and no video games. What is a child to do without their electronics? Well back in the old days, we used to have to play board games or card games to keep ourselves entertained. Make sure you have plenty on hand to keep the kids busy.
You can also break out the books and have the kids read to help pass the time. Going outside to play for extended periods of time during a winter storm is usually not an option. So make sure you have plenty of options to keep them busy.
This is something I personally just invested in before this last winter storm we had. After having a tornado knocked out power for days and living through a previous ice storm that knocked out power for a week I wasn’t about to make that same mistake.
I had a generator ready and extra gas just in case we were without power for an extended period of time. And it came in handy, even though our power went out the internet still worked. So I was able to fire up the generator and power the internet router and the kids had the internet to keep them occupied while the power was out.
As always please be cautious with using power equipment. Consult the owner’s manual thoroughly before setting up and operating a generator. They are a great asset but can be dangerous.
Prepare your house
There are things you may want to do around your house before a winter storm hits to make things a little easier on yourself also. I have been through many storms and forgot to do these things and I always paid the price.
Clean your gutters
Hopefully, by the time a winter storm hits your gutters are clean from the fall leaves. But I have a big Magnolia tree by the front of our house that always drops leaves year-round. Make sure your gutters are clean and can drain properly.
One year our gutters froze over with ice and snow. Then two days after that ice and snow hit it rained, hard. And that rain just rolled over the frozen gutter and cascaded down the side of my house and then proceeded to come into the house. If I would have had a clear gutter that would have never happened.
If you have a lot of trees and some of them might have some dangerous limbs that are close to your house or hang over your car you may want to trim them back. Our magnolia tree and our pine trees lost some huge branches during this ice storm. Luckily they fell in a safe location, but if those trees were any closer to the house I would have them trimmed back.
Cover your cars
With an ice storm, the worse part is when your car freezes up and you can’t get into it. You may want to get some cardboard or a heavy blanket and boards to cover the windshield and door so the ice will be easier to remove. Just make sure to use a blanket to prevent from scratching up your car.
Fill propane tanks
If you heat your house with propane this is a must. I would never let your tanks get below 50% in winter. But if you have a gas grill you normally don’t think about filling the propane tank during the winter months.
This can be the difference between eating cold sandwiches when the power goes out and having a hot meal. During the big ice storm of 2009, I got my gas grill out and cooked burgers and mac and cheese on my outdoor grill. It took longer to get the burgers cooked but it was a blessing to have a hot meal.
Fill your cars with Gas
You will also want to make sure your cars are filled up before the storm. If there are wide-scale power outages gas stations will have issues dispensing gas. And the few that have generators to keep them going will be backed up for hours. You can avoid this by making sure all your vehicles are filled with gas before the storm hits.
My hope is that you will never have to endure a bad winter storm. Snow and ice can be trouble for both you and your family but getting through them can be handled with little trouble. Make sure you have the appropriate supplies, make sure you are ready for power outages, and keep your gas tanks filled up.
Remember to be safe also. The cold temperatures and lack of power might make you think about doing things unsafe. I have heard stories of people running their generators in their garage and then getting carbon monoxide all in their house. Make sure you do everything safely and think through any decisions.
If the roads get cleared consider going to someone else’s house that has power. In 2009 we still didn’t have power but my family a few hours away did. We packed up the kids and went and stayed with them for a few days until our power came back on.
Do you have any additional tips for preparing for a winter storm? If so drop a comment or let us know on our Facebook page.