Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Are You Prepared for Snowmageddon?
How to prepare for a long hard winter
By Stefan Verstappen

 Last winter was tough, this past summer has been one of the coldest on record, and before the season was over, parts of Canada and the U.S. had already been hit with snow. Sunspot activity is in a 12 year low and The Farmers' Almanac predicts continued below-average temperatures.

All these signs point to one conclusion - Snowmageddon is coming!

Winter can be cold, dark, and depressing, but with a little preparation and some old fashioned advice you can make the best of what could be a record harsh winter.

The following are some steps everyone should be taking right now to ensure you survive as comfortable as possible should you be trapped at home, in your car, or at the office by ice storms, blizzards, and blackouts.

What You Should Have in Your Home

 Alternative Heating
Whether your home is heated by gas or electric, if there’s a power outage you’ll be left in the dark and in the cold. You should be prepared to heat your living space for up to a month using alternative methods.

If you have a fireplace or wood stove now is the time to order-in or chop extra firewood, before the sudden demand after the first blizzard causes scarcity and high prices.

If you don't have wood burning capability then the next best source for alternative heating is a portable propane heater. These are the heaters people normally use up at the cottage or in RVs, and are capable of heating a room up to 400 sq. ft. (37 sq. m) so if you live in a large home you may need to get a couple.  Make sure that any heater you purchase is safe for indoor use, and does not require external venting.

You should also stock-up on propane since this will become scarce, if available at all, by January and February.

A severe storm could empty and then shut down grocery stores for weeks. Best to have at least a months' supply of food and water stored up for the winter. Also stockpile any prescription medications you need on a daily basis, and don’t forget extra pet food for the pooches and pussies.

Alternative Cooking
Without power you will have to find another way to cook your food and make hot toddies. If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace you can cook your food just like your great grandparents did, provided you have the cast iron grills, pots, and pans suitable to open flame cooking.
If not, your next best option is a camping style propane cook stove. Again, make sure that any stove you purchase is safe for indoor use.

During a black-out once you have a warm place to sleep and enough food, then boredom becomes your next biggest enemy. Fortunately there are both high tech and low tech solutions.
High tech solutions include purchasing a portable generator to run heaters, stoves, and entertainment systems. However they are noisy and need to be run outdoors making this an option for rural and suburban dwellers.

For urban dwellers battery power is the way to go. Stock-up on rechargeable batteries now because they will likewise become scarce once the deep freeze settles in.  Batteries can be used to run cellphones, radios, music players, portable MP4 players or laptops. Download a couple dozen of your favorite movies or TV shows and store them on a flash-drive, then you can have movie night with the kids using your laptop. Just remember the golden rule of batteries, like bacon, you can never have enough.

Once you run out of fuel for the generator, and batteries for the electronics, you're down to low tech solutions. Now's the time to break out the acoustic instruments and learn to play that song you've been meaning to learn. Music was invented by people who had nothing to do but freeze in a damp cave for five months a year.

Aso get a few of the old storm lanterns that use lamp oil, they last forever and you can use cooking oil in a pinch. Then make sure you have some board games and a couple of decks of cards. Oh, and candles, just remember the golden rule of candles...

Finally, stock up on some good books. Getting immersed in a book you can't put down will make your stay in Helheim (Norse mythology meaning frozen house of hell) fly by and after you've finished reading the complete works of William Shakespeare you'll look up to see the sun rising again.

What You Should Have in Your Office

For many, there could be no worse nightmare than to be trapped at the office by a sudden ice blizzard and have to spend the night there with your boss and fellow co-workers. 

To make the best of an awkward situation you need to be prepared. One day, after the leaves have fallen, bring to work a small tote bag and keep it under your desk or in the file cabinet somewhere. 

In it you should have:

  • A flashlight
  • A small battery/ hand crank powered radio
  • A small fleece blanket
  • A couple of candles
  • Some packets of cup-a-soup, hot chocolate and instant coffee
  • A dozen small individually wrapped chocolates
  • A deck of playing cards.

Then if the lights go out at the office; you can use the flashlight to find your way around, listen to the radio for weather up-dates, add to your retirement fund with few hands of poker by candlelight, offer your co-workers a hot beverage, (the water in the hot water heater will stay hot for up to 12 hours) and use some of the chocolates to bribe your way onto the couch in reception where you can sleep snug and smug under your fleece blanket.

What You Should Have in Your Car

Probably the worst winter scenario is becoming stranded in your vehicle on the side of the road. Each year snow storms have trapped people in their cars from a few hours to a few days. If you take the time to put a few extra items in the trunk now you will be thankful you did later.

First, everyone should keep a roadside emergency kit in their vehicles year round. 

 This should include; 

  • battery cables
  • towing strap
  • road flares and reflectors
  • emergency blanket
  • first aid kit
  • flashlight. 
 For winter you should add the following items to the kit.

  • Extra hat, scarf, and gloves
  • A thick blanket or sleeping bag
  • Some energy bars
  • Extra antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid
  • A shovel and ice scraper
  • A 12v portable coffee maker (plugs into your vehicles’ cigarette lighter) and packets of instant soup, coffee and hot chocolate
  • A safety candle
 With this gear you have several options in case you get stuck in the snow. You can put on the extra hat and gloves, grab the shovel and try to dig your way out, or you can have a friend or Good Samaritan tow you out using the tow strap.

If you have to wait for help to arrive you can run the engine for ten minutes every hour to heat up the interior and make yourself a cup of hot soup. (Always leave a small opening in the window to let in fresh air.) If you run out of gas before help arrives, then wrap yourself in the sleeping bag and light a candle.

With a little preparation you can tell your grandchildren how you survived Snowmageddon by bonding with the family gathered around the heater, playing music, listening to Grandma read stories, and how you got that big promotion.

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