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It seems only a few weeks ago I was complaining that we’d never get snow. That has changed. We got snow. And we got cold weather! And we’re not the only ones.
Christmas weekend storms blanketed parts of the West Coast. Several of my friends were without power for days. Recently, hundreds of motorists were stranded on I-95 in Virginia thanks to a jackknifed truck and winter weather. In Pakistan, over twenty died after being trapped in their vehicles during a storm.
Last winter, we saw plenty of weather issues in the south when a storm went through and knocked out power for days. A January 3rd article places the death toll at 246. The official report contributes most of the deaths to hypothermia.
In Wyoming, we’re used to cold weather. but losing electricity on top of the cold can be dangerous. My main heat source is wood, so we don’t rely on electricity to keep warm. Even so, we have several backups in place for those ultra-cold days.
We also take extra precautions when traveling during the winter. Our usual car bags (Get Home Bags) are beefed up early in the season, and we throw in insulated pants and snow boots.
Are you prepared for cold weather? Run through this checklist for ideas.
- A wood-burning stove or fireplace insert ensures heat without electricity.
- If you have a generator, be sure you have fuel for it. If you are in the market for a generator, consider a dual fuel version. LP gas (propane) is easy to store. If you have a large propane tank for household use, consider adding a wet-valve or wet-leg to fill smaller tanks.
- Do you have a way to cook if the power is out? Now is the time to explore alternatives to an electric range. You could also consider keeping a supply of no-cook foods on hand.
- Close off any rooms you don’t absolutely need to use. While you’re at it, block any drafts at the bottoms of doors or around windows. You can use rolled-up towels, duct tape, blankets, etc.
- An indoor heater, such as a propane-fueled Buddy Heater, is safe and designated for indoor use. These will heat a decent-sized space.
- Using insulated shades can help hold in heat and keep out cold. I order custom-sized shades at a reasonable price from Select Blinds. Insulated curtains can also help.
- Setting up a small tent in a room or over your bed can make a warm sleeping spot. You can even buy specialty tents designed to go on the bed!
- Cold-weather sleeping bags are also a good idea. We each have a below zero bag and a summer-weight bag. Inserting the lighter bag inside the heavier really increases the insulating.
- In extreme cold, you should focus on warming people, not places.
- Keep your car winter-ready with the proper seasonal fluids, an ice scraper, snow brush, folding shovel, deicer, etc.
- Extra insulated clothes (read more in the next section), boots, and blankets are always smart. The foil emergency blankets are convenient. They are good for holding in your body heat but do not warm you up, something important to remember.
- Nonperishable food is always smart. In the I-95 incident, a bread truck shared its goods with those stranded. When I-80 was recently closed, Rock Springs residents delivered meals to truckers. Both were wonderful and generous acts but shouldn’t be counted on. Keeping protein bars, such as chocolate protein bars from Naked Nutrition, in the car at all times is a good idea.
- Keeping water in the car during winter is a challenge. Instead of leaving it in the vehicle to freeze, we make a point of grabbing our water bottles. When going any distance farther than the nearest town (half an hour away), we also bring a large jug. And our Get Home Bag (GHB) also has a Sawyer filter system.
- Have flares, reflectors, or something similar to be seen if you’re broken down or slide off the road. Flashlights are also a good idea. In addition to a battery-operated light in both our car pack and GHB, we also have one of these hand-crank lights in each car. I’m surprised by how bright they are and how well they work!
Warm Your Body:
- Dress in layers. Start with a base layer that will wick away moisture (sweat) to help keep you warm even when damp. Wool makes an excellent base layer. For those who don’t like wool next to their body, consider silk or a synthetic base layer. I recently ordered base layer pants and a top from Fortress. I’m going skiing this weekend to try them out – I’ll report back. The videos showing how the Fortress clothing works are impressive.
- Wear wool socks. Insulated slippers are also a good idea.
- Wrap your neck. In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s very important to cover your neck when the temperature is cold and the weather is windy. I started wrapping my neck after a suggestion from my acupuncturist. It’s a practice I continue. During cold weather, it’s rare to see me without something covering my neck, even indoors.
- Wear a hat. Rumor is we can lose up to 50% of our body heat from our head. Research shows this is just a rumor, but a hat will still help keep you warm.
- If you must go outside in extremely cold temperatures, especially when the wind chill is a concern, wear lined pants, a shirt, and a hoody over your base layer. Then add an insulating layer of bibs and a fluffy jacket. Top with a shell or rain jacket to keep the wind and wetness from penetrating. Keep your face and hands covered, and limit the amount of time you are out. We often look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow man on the coldest winter days!