What should you do in case of a blizzard?

Snow Storm Essentials Checklist

We’ve all heard the wisecracks about panicked shoppers overloading on bread and milk in the hours before a predicted winter storm, and maybe you’ve even seen it happen. But stocking up for a winter storm doesn’t need to be a disorganized, last-minute frenzy — it’s safe to buy most of the things on your winter food stock-up list now, while the weather is still good.

And if you live in an area that sees heavy snow most winters, getting an early start is a smart idea.

How to Stock a Pantry for Winter Weather

After heavy snowfall or blizzard conditions, you could find yourself snowed in for days. Getting cut off from your local grocery store could be made worse by a prolonged power outage, which would leave you with just a few hours to safely enjoy the remaining contents of your fridge.

But if you stock your pantry with filling, shelf-stable foods, you won’t go hungry while you’re waiting for the snow to be cleared. Here are some of the smartest essentials to purchase well in advance of an impending storm:

  • Bottled water (at least one gallon per person per day, for at least three days)
  • Canned goods, especially cozy, warming foods like soups and stews
  • Snack foods like chips, crackers and cookies in sealed packages
  • Cereal and granola
  • Anything jarred, from jellies to pickles to meats
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Peanut butter and other shelf-stable nut butters, a vegan-friendly source of protein
  • Dried pasta and jarred sauce
  • Wax-sealed hard cheeses
  • Salted butter, which lasts longer at room temperature than unsalted butter
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Jerky
  • Energy bars
  • Shelf-stable juice
  • Coffee, tea and hot cocoa mix (and maybe some marshmallows)
  • Extra paper products like toilet paper and paper towels

Last-Minute Snow Storm Food List

You’ll do just fine for a few days with those pantry staples alone, but if you have time to get to the grocery store before the big storm hits, it’s nice to have these on hand:

  • Fresh bread
  • Eggs
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Adult beverages (you’re snowed-in after all)
  • Ingredients for cookies or some other baking project to keep the house warm and cozy

Winter Emergency Essentials

Staying safe throughout a winter weather event involves more than filling your belly. As long as you’re stocking up on things, make sure your emergency preparedness kit is topped off with the following:

  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Battery operated radio
  • Back-up energy sources like portable power banks and solar chargers
  • Can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Thermal emergency blankets
  • A propane or kerosene space heater rated for indoor use

Cover All the Bases

Some members of your household may have unique needs, so make sure they’re factored into your shopping list as well:

  • At least a one-week supply of prescription medication and medical supplies
  • Pet food and medicine
  • Baby food and formula
  • Diapers

Prepare Your Home for a Winter Storm

If you’re worried about being snowed-in without power for a day or more, there are a few other areas where you might stock up:

Get Ready for Grilling

No gas stove? No problem, if you have an outdoor grill. Just be sure to get necessities like charcoal, matches, newspapers and lighter fluid, or a full tank of propane for a gas grill. You can also use a camping stove if you have a supply of the appropriate fuel. A teakettle and French press will come in handy if you end up making your morning coffee by the heat of the fire.

Maintain Your Generator

If you have an emergency backup generator, you’ll want to top off your supply of fuel and replace and old fuel that may be stale. Make sure the generator is up to date on maintenance like oil changes, filters and spark plugs, and ensure that any extension cords you’re using are undamaged and rated for generator use. If you want to run your generator through your main electrical panel but haven’t had an electrician install a transfer switch, get this service done before you have a blizzard bearing down.

Ice Down the Icebox

You can help your refrigerator and freezer maintain cold temperatures during a power outage by filling empty space with containers of water — or better yet, ice. If outdoor temperatures are below freezing, you can freeze several large containers of water at once and keep them cycling in and out of your fridge and freezer, just in case.

Another option is to use dry ice, which maintains a temperature of -109 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can obtain dry ice locally right before or after a power outage, you can use it to save your perishables as long as you replace it as needed. The FDA recommends 50 pounds of dry ice to keep a fully stocked 18-foot cubic freezer frozen for two days; to fine-tune the temperature of your fridge and freezer with dry ice, it will help to have a couple of refrigerator thermometers.

Top Off the Gas Tank

While you’re out gathering all these supplies, don’t forget to fill up your car’s gas tank. Winter storms could interrupt fuel deliveries in your area.

Follow These Five Steps To Stay Safe In A Blizzard

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Extreme winter weather was the third most costly type of natural disaster between 1991 and 2010, according to the Insurance Information Institute. In order to keep yourself and your property safe, follow these five steps to make sure you’re prepared if a blizzard hits your area.

Follow the storm trackers on your local news. If your local news tells you a blizzard is coming, take the warning seriously. Follow the weather reports closely to make sure you know the storm’s timeline. This can help give you the time you need to prepare your home and family for the oncoming storm.

Charge electronic devices. If you know that a storm is coming, make sure you charge your cell phone, laptop and any other electronic device you have. If the power goes out during a storm, your cell phone and laptop may be the only way to stay updated on the storm and contact someone in the event of an emergency. Once you fully charge your electronic devices, try not to use them so that the batteries last throughout the blizzard.

Extreme winter weather was the third most costly type of natural disaster between 1991 and 2010, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Stay inside and off the roads. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s one of the most important aspects of staying safe in a blizzard. Driving becomes dangerous not only because of road conditions, but also reduced visibility. If you are in the middle of a long drive when a blizzard hits, it’s best to stop at a hotel if at all possible. No deadline is worth risking your life. Should you find yourself stranded in a car, only run the engine for about ten minutes every hour to keep the car warm. Crack the window periodically and make sure the tailpipe is not blocked by snow to prevent carbon monoxide from accumulating in the car.

Prepare to go without power and heat. Creating an emergency supply kit for blizzards is an excellent idea. Be sure to include candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, warm clothes for everyone in your family and plenty of non-perishable food. Also have a stock of bottled water on hand. You’ll need about a gallon of clean drinking water per person, per day. Keep your emergency kit in a convenient location, and periodically check to make sure that it is stocked and fully functioning. In extreme cases, a family may have to go days without power. Even if your house is not heated by electricity, be prepared to go without heat. Many boilers depend on electricity to work. To preserve as much heat as possible, turn off the heat in rooms that you aren’t using, and cover any cracks under doors or windows with a towel. This will keep the cold air from seeping in your house.

Keep an eye on the accumulated snow on your roof. Barring any structural damage, the average roof should be able to hold about 20 pounds of pressure per square foot. A foot of fresh snow is equal to about five pounds per square foot. This means that it will take about four feet of snow to cause significant stress to your roof. If storms strike in succession make sure you continuously remove snow that’s building up on your roof. To avoid getting on a ladder in dangerous conditions, look into purchasing a snow rake, which can extend to reach most roofs. Snow rakes can be purchased at most hardware stores. If it’s too dangerous to be outside during the storm, consider hiring a professional to come in and remove snow from your roof.

These five steps will help keep you and your family safe if your area is hit by a blizzard. If your house suffers any damage as a result of the storm, your homeowners insurance policy could cover the cost of the damage. Every coverage is unique, so check your policy for details.

This information is provided for your convenience; it is not intended as insurance advice. The views, opinions, and advice expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not those of Homesite Group Incorporated. Please consult your insurance carrier or agent for information regarding your policy or coverages.

Philip Smith / PKS Media Inc. / Getty Images

Much of the Northeast is covered in a thick blanket of snow thanks to winter storm Hercules. And that means potential health hazards.

More than 100 million were affected by the overnight dumping of up to two feet of snow. When it comes to weathering the cold, you probably know the basics, like keeping your head covered in order to lower your risk of hypothermia and making sure that the elderly and children are adequately bundled since they are more at risk of dropping body temperatures. But here are some tips from experts that might not be so obvious, and could keep you safe throughout the snowy season.

Be extra careful if you have a chronic medical condition: Chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure and the cold weather don’t mix. According to Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, cold temperatures and extra physical activity from shoveling snow can be risky, since the cold tends to shrink blood vessels, making the heart pump harder to keep blood flowing to fingers and toes. The combination can significantly increase your risk for a heart attack, especially for those with a history of hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

Don’t drink and shovel: Avoid heading out to shovel after downing a cup of coffee or an alcoholic beverage, because drinking can lead to dehydration. Drinking alcohol can also hasten heat loss, and impair your ability to tell how cold you are while outside. Take breaks while you shovel, and remember to drink water to stay hydrated. Stop shoveling if you start feeling dizzy, or if you experience chest pain or difficulty breathing, and call 911.

Use a smaller shovel or a snowblower: Your blood pressure can sometimes rise sharply if you are lifting heavy snow, so Glatter recommends lifting smaller amounts even if it takes more shovelfuls to clear your driveway, or using a blower to push the snow. Remember to bend your knees to avoid back injuries.

Hold an object or bag in your dominant hand: This could help you to avoid braking a dominant hand or arm if you fall on the ice, according to orthopaedic surgeons from New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Since falls happen fast, people often instinctively try to break their fall with their dominant hands and arms — the right side for right-handers, and the left for left-handers — making everyday life difficult during recovery. If you hold something in your dominant hand, you are less likely to use it when you fall, and therefore less likely to injure it severely.

“Do the Shuffle”: If you are walking across ice, shuffle your feet by moving them very slightly apart as you shoot across the ice. This gives you better balance on slippery surfaces.

Safety Tips To Survive a Blizzard

As the region prepares for the arrival of the first major storm of the winter, here are some tips from the United Way of Connecticut’s 211 winter storm tips.

BEFORE THE STORM STRIKES:
Winter storms and blizzards can cause loss of electricity, heat and telephone service and can trap you in your home for a few days. Have available:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Make sure each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat and water resistant boots
  • Extra blankets
  • Battery powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information
  • Canned food and nonelectric can opener
  • Bottled water
  • Extra medicine and baby items
  • First aid supplies
  • Healing fuel – fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a severe winter storm
  • Back up heating source, such as fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment
  • Sand to improve traction
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water
  • Make a Family Communication Plan. Your family may not be together when the storm strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another and how you will get back together.

DURING THE WINTER STORM:

  • Stay indoors
  • If you must go outside, several layers of clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves or mittens and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms are detected get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks
  • Drive only if it absolutely necessary. If you must drive travel in the day, don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts
  • Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your house cooler than normal. Temporarily shut off heat to less-used rooms.
  • When using alternative heat from a fire place, wood stove, or space heater, use fire safeguards and properly ventilate
  • If using kerosene heaters, maintain ventilation to avoid buildup of toxic fumes. Keep heaters at least three feet from flammable objects. Refuel kerosene heaters outside.

IF YOU MUST TRAVEL BY CAR IN A STORM:

  • Have emergency supplies in the trunk. Include blankets/sleeping bags, flashlight with extra batteries, extra set of dry clothing and boots, shovel, sand, tire chains, jumper cables, high calorie non-perishable food, windshield scraper, first aid kit, compass, road maps, and a brightly colored cloth to tie to the antenna.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing
  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive

IF YOU DO GET STUCK:

  • Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see
  • Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up into the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen
  • As you sit, keep moving your arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air

As winter travel revs up this month, lots of us may find ourselves out driving through snow-filled mountains in conditions we’re not comfortable with. Not to say you’re going to run off the road in a blizzard, but if you do, there are some things you can do both before and during to help your chances of survival.

Matt Napiltonia is a former Navy SEAL, who spent over eight years doing rescues and evacuations in Afghanistan as both an Army Medical Services Officer and civilian. He’s now the Senior Operations Manager at Global Rescue, a medical security and evacuation service tasked with pulling people out of difficult situations in highly remote places. He’s seen a lot of what it takes to survive over the years and offered us some tips on how to withstand getting stuck in a freak winter snowstorm.

1. Fuel up your car.

If you’re the type of person who likes to play the how-far-past-empty-can-we-get game, usually the consequences if you lose are, at worst, an embarrassing walk down the highway. In a blizzard, the stakes are a lot higher.

“I hear from people all the time who run out of fuel in the mountains,” says Napiltoinia. “How the … if it’s 20 degrees outside, and it’s snowing, fuel up your car!”

Not only is this important so you don’t find yourself stranded in the middle of an icy country road, but it’s also important should you crash. The amount of gas in your car determines the amount of time you’re able to run the engine and stay warm. The more gas, the toastier it’ll be.

2. Stay put.

“One of the things people do, if they’re in the woods or off the road, they won’t stay put. In many respects, that can be the kiss of death,” Napiltonia warns. “Imagine you’re in a whiteout, and you don’t have service, and you can’t geolocate yourself, and you don’t know if it’s five miles or 50 miles to the next town. Most people aren’t prepared to actually hump out in a blizzard and bite off more than they can chew. And then they’re exposed to the elements.”

Tempting as it may be to try and hoof it back to civilization, your car provides some shelter from the elements and is ultimately a safer place to be. Napiltonia also points out that if you’re near a road, typically law enforcement, a snowplow, a farmer, or some enterprising motorist will come by within 48 hours. So he suggests waiting at least that long before thinking about leaving.

3. Pack a marker panel.

Napiltonia suggests bringing a fluorescent orange or pink marker panel along with some 550 parachute cord to tie it to your car.

“It’s no different than what a downed aircraft would have,” he says. “Tie that to one end of the car and the roof of your vehicle, and you can be seen from above.”

4. Bring water, a lighter, and a metal cup.

Hydration can ultimately become the most important factor in surviving an extreme circumstance, especially with the energy your body expends trying to stay warm in a blizzard. Napiltonia says having at least a gallon is a must but also advises preparing for when it runs out.

The good news about being stuck in a blizzard is you don’t have to go far to find water. The bad news is that it may not always be safe to drink, and in some circumstances, temperatures may be too cold for it to melt. Bringing along a lighter and a metal cup will allow you to not only melt the snow, but also boil it to ensure its safety.

5. Throw kitty litter or sandbags in the trunk.

This isn’t just so your pet has a place to do his business. It’s so you can lay it down in the snow and possibly gain some traction should your car still be ready to drive.

“You always want to bring a shovel,” he adds. “A fold-up shovel or snow shovel so you can dig yourself out and that bag of sand or kitty litter will help you get some traction. I’ve been able to do that once before.”
If you’re feeling strong, he also suggests packing a substantial amount of sand in bags and putting it in the back of your car. This will keep the back end weighted down, making your car easier to handle in the snow, and less likely to run off the road.

6. Carry a survival kit.

In addition to the aforementioned kitty litter, water, and fire-starting equipment, Napiltonia also stresses the importance of packing a bag of smaller items you may need in case of a blizzard.

“I also bring a small ax and saw, and it’s all in a backpack in the back of my two cars,” he says. “I also bring jumper cables, a first-aid kit, a whistle, and duct tape … and a big thick scarf, it really keeps the wind off of you.”

He also advises including a spare cell phone battery. This might seem pointless given snowbound country roads generally don’t have much in the way of cell service. But it may prove crucial should you find yourself having to walk to safety.

“If it’s been 48 hours and nobody’s come to get you, and you think you’re fit enough, you may have to hike out to the road,” he says. “And cell service may pick up at some point, and then you’ll need that charge.”

7. Clear your exhaust pipe.

When a vehicle runs off the road, especially in the woods, it’s not at all uncommon for dirt, wood, rocks, and other debris to clog up the exhaust pipe. Under normal circumstances, it’s not terribly important unless you’re planning to run the engine. But when you’re using your vehicle as an all-important source of heat, you need to make sure carbon monoxide isn’t getting into the car.

“You may need to stay in that vehicle where you keep the vehicle warm, turn it on in intervals to keep heat in,” he says. “You don’t wanna block the pipe because of a carbon monoxide gas backup.”

8. Layer up, and get the heaviest sleeping bag you can afford.

“People need to pack the highest quality sleeping bag they can afford,” he says, beginning his advice on cold-weather clothing. “They need to stuff that in the back of the vehicle, along with long underwear, a fleece, and a heavy jacket — something you can stay in 0-20 degrees for long periods of time.”

Granted, most winter travelers likely have this on them already, but it always pays to have it handy. He also recommends bringing along a pair of boots to trudge through the snow in case that becomes necessary.

9. Keep a resilient mindset.

“The human soul is resilient, and 99 percent of survival is mental,” says Napiltonia. “It’s no different than being a SEAL and getting through SEAL training. If you can mentally keep yourself in the game, you can survive almost anything if you have the stuff I told you to take. But if you have a weak mind and a weak demeanor, you’re probably still going to die.”

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10 Ways to Survive a Snowstorm

There’s no truer statement than the old adage “you can’t control the weather.” You can’t­ even predict it with complete certainty. As advanced as our meteorological forecasting techniques are these days, weather systems are changeable forces of nature. They can come on quickly, switch direction without notice and build in intensity in a short period of time. Whether you’re at home, on foot, in your car or at work, a winter snowstorm can catch you off guard.

The Nation­al Snow and Ice Data Center defines a blizzard as a “violent winter storm, lasting at least 3 hours, which combines below freezing temperatures and very strong wind laden with blowing snow that reduces visibility to less than 1 km.”

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If a blizzard is bad enough, snow plows and salt trucks won’t even brave the elements. Roads become desol­ate ice paths, businesses shut down, schools close and grocery stores get picked clean. If your home loses power and you have no backup heating system in place, your very life becomes at risk. In this article, we’ll give you 10 tips on how to survive a snowstorm.

Snow Storm Safety

Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding commuters, closing airports, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services. The weight of snow can cause roofs to collapse and knock down trees and power lines. Homes and farms may be isolated for days and unprotected livestock may be lost. In the mountains, heavy snow can lead to avalanches. The cost of snow removal, repairing damages, and the loss of business can have severe economic impacts on cities and towns. See weather.gov for the latest forecast.

  • Blizzard: Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or more with snow and blowing snow frequently reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile for 3 hours or more.
  • Blowing Snow: Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing snow may be falling snow and/or snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
  • Snow Squalls: Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant.
  • Snow Showers: Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.
  • Flurries: Light snow falling for short durations with little or no accumulation.
  • Avalanche: A mass of tumbling snow. More than 80 percent of midwinter avalanches are triggered by a rapid accumulation of snow and 90 percent of those avalanches occur within 24 hours of snowfall. An avalanche may reach a mass of a million tons and travel at speeds up to 200 mph.

Snow Links

  • How to Measure Snow
  • NOAA’s Source for Snow Information, past events, models, etc. (Interactive Snow Info | Snowfall Analysis)
  • Climate trends
  • Snow and Ice Cover
  • Satellite Snow Cover
  • Snow Cover

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