You’ve heard me say it a dozen times: Our Midwest winters are not for amateurs. Please, please, I hope you are all taking winter seriously and are ready (or as ready as you can be) for the worst that Mother Nature can throw at us.
I’ve covered Winter Car Kits a few times. Now it’s time to talk about your “home kit” or what you need on hand to make it through a winter storm.
First, pay attention to the weather. I know, sometimes news stations seem to really hype an upcoming storm. But take it seriously. What’s the worst that can happen? You are prepared and there’s no storm. You should have battery powered or hand-crank radio so you can always stay informed even if there is a power outage. (Example: Dynamo Solar Self Powered Radio)
Second, have a plan for when you are on the road. It is also a good idea to have somewhere family members can go if a storm hits while they are at work, school or on the road. Make sure family members have a small overnight kit at school, work or in the car: comb or brush, toothbrush and toothpaste and maybe an extra pair of socks.
But now let’s suppose that you’ve kept an eye on the weather and you’re all home safe and sound when a storm hits. What will you need to have on hand? Think of the worse-case scenario: a power outage and/or a prolonged storm. It’s not unusual for us to have storms that close down all roads and services for two or three days. It’s also not unusual for those storms to disrupt power for three days or more. Are you ready?
To start off, you should have enough food, water, medication and heat on hand for three days of isolation. And toilet paper. You don’t want to run out of that.
If you have babies you want diapers, wipes and formula. If you have small children, you want milk and bread. For all family members, you probably want some fun snacks (popcorn is always a good standby and easy to keep on hand.) and movies (if you have power) or board games (if you don’t.)
It’s also nice to have ready-made or foods that just need heating (like soup or frozen dinners) on hand. If the power goes out, they can be easily heated over a fire place or on a kerosene stove. Even if the power doesn’t go out, you have a quick meal to serve when everyone comes in from shoveling snow.
And don’t forget the pets—make sure you have enough pet food to see you through at least three days.
When you’re all cooped up (and maybe a little stressed? or someone got a little chilled when the storm started?), germs will spread more readily. So have some over-the-counter cold and fever remedies. Maybe some sore muscle cream or bath salts for after shoveling? Diabetics and those taking daily medication should always have an extra supply on hand.
I’ve written before about using alternate heat, but let me say it again: if you are using wood or kerosene heat, be sure your carbon monoxide detectors are properly mounted and working. If you didn’t do it at the beginning of winter, check the batteries now.
Once the storm subsides you’ll have to dig yourself out. Hopefully you have a few energetic kids to help out (or the neighbor has some energetic kids he can lend you.) Everyone needs a shovel. Experience has taught us that this is the best shovel for digging out: The aluminum is lightweight but it bends and dents easily, so look for a steel one. Plastic shovels are worthless, the typical snow shovel is more for pushing snow, not removing it. It’s great for finishing off the sidewalk to get it snow-free. But if you have serious snow to move, it’s not going to do the trick. That’s why this Ames Scoop Shovel (with its nice long handle and big scooping shovel) is our favorite. It’s a little more expensive than some, but we have two and they’ve outlasted (and out-worked) all our others.
Having said all this, we’ll probably have a very mild winter, with very few storms (we’re certainly headed that way) and you’ll all think I’m a worry wort for making such a big deal about winter storms. I hope that’s the case. But just in case Mother Nature doesn’t behave, I hope you are prepared.