Warning: Angry Winter Storms Ahead
By Brandon Hunt
A Tough Winter
We all know winters are tough. Whether you live in a region of harsh winters or in a sunny snowbird colony, you’ve likely experienced a severe winter storm or two.
But will winter of 2021-2022 be harsher than winters past?
I don’t know.
But the current signs and indicators are there for anyone to speculate: Covid-19, shipping problems, shipping problems, inflation, unrest and uncertainty, and a government barreling forward with climate initiatives….and add winter storms to the mix...
Yeah, things could be quite tough this winter season, affecting a lot of good, hard working people. Yet, like any success in life, preparation is key.
Alert individuals will take action to prepare for winter now.
In a previous article I went over a few ways to prepare for a power outage caused by a hurricane. With winter looming I thought it wise to visit some of the challenges and dangers of winter storms.
The Dreaded Winter Season
We look askance at approaching winter with wary eyes.
Even in this modern day of technology, of heated homes and plentiful food, we feel a little nagging in our bones, reminding us that we should have better prepared for the lean times.
The storms of winter are many and varied. The types of snow storms we have are most often influenced by the region.
The tricky nature of winter means that weather mixes it up: heavy snowfall, freezing rain, sleet, high winds and snowdrifts, snow squalls, sleet, ice storms --- just to list some of the winter weather.
If you aren’t already familiar with the snow patterns of your area, then research and familiarize yourself with the terms and warnings of weather alert systems.
The Common Dangers of Winter Storms
Below are a few of the more common dangers that attend winter and storms. Familiarization with the dangers of winter will equip you to act and protect your loved ones.
A severe enough storm has the strength to knock out facilities such as power and gas. Without light and heat in the dead of winter, you need to be extra vigilant for signs of hypothermia (unusually low body temperature, meaning anything below 95 degrees is an emergency).
- Signs of Hypothermia: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.
- Actions: If someone is hypothermic you need to get him or her warm. Warm up the center of the body first -- the chest, neck, head and groin -- all areas of rapid heat loss. Keep the person wrapped up in blankets (including head and neck), emergency blankets, and near other heat sources.
Occurs with extended exposure to cold. Anyone out in the cold too long runs the risk of frostbite. Kids playing outside are susceptible just because, well, they’re kids and they just want to play. Learn the signs of frostbite, be aware, be safe.
- Signs of Frostbite: It causes loss of feeling and coloration around the face, fingers and toes. The skin will become numb, feel waxy or firm, and will appear white or grayish-yellow.
- Actions: Seek out a warm area or room. Soak the exposed area or body part in warm water. Use body heat to warm as well. Avoid rubbing, massaging or heating pad to the exposed area.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
This often happens during a power outage from gas appliances and other heating systems. Poisoning occurs when too much carbon monoxide is in the air and your body begins to replace oxygen in your blood cells with carbon monoxide.
- Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, loss of consciousness.
- Actions: Move outside to fresh air. You should feel better once away from the gas. If someone is exposed, also seek medical attention right away.
Yep, heart attacks happen in winter, not because of the storms, but more as a result of over exertion. Shoveling all of that snow, exerting oneself, might lead to a heart attack.
- Signs of a Heart Attack: Chest discomfort in the center lasting longer than a few minutes. Discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath. Other signs like cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- Actions: If you see someone unconscious or you think is having a heart attack, get medical help immediately. Then check for breath and a pulse. Administer emergency CPR if you have been trained.
Beat Old Man Winter --- Prepare!
A severe enough storm with heavy winds or snow, possibly freezing rain, there’s a high chance the power will go out. With a bad storm it could be a while. Remember Texas? So, use your time and prepare beforehand.
- Buy or put together a power outage kit.
- Use a generator for backup power.
- Also, prep your home by storing extra water, food, clothes, and alternative methods for staying warm.
Burst Water Pipes:
If a storm knocks out the power and you don’t have heat, a busted water pipe from freezing is just another mess you want to avoid. Freezing water expands the pipes, and then ---BAM! Water flooding your house...in winter. Not fun. What do you do to prepare your house pipes?
- Insulating your pipes ahead of time is the best option for avoiding broken pipes. However, if you run out of time before insulating, you can try letting a trickle of water run from a faucet you know is connected to an exterior wall, as a little running water will keep the pipe from freezing.
- You can also open up cabinet doors under sinks in your bathroom and kitchen.
Winterize your home. Make sure your house will retain as much heat as possible, especially if there is a winter power outage.
- Double check that your house is in order and ready for those winter storms.
- Check that weather stripping around doors and windows is tight and insulative.
- Clean out and repair gutters.
- Inspect your heating system, and if you have a fireplace and chimney inspect and clean them as well.
- Have a safe alternative heating system with fuel.
- Keep a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
Getting stuck in the snow, during or after, a snow storm happens. However the danger increases if you're stuck and isolated somewhere with little to no traffic. You might have to spend the night in your vehicle. Are you ready for that? In another post I listed a few items to carry in your vehicle to improve your chances of getting out of the snow.
- The best way to avoid or minimize damage or danger is through preparation. Prep your vehicle for winter ahead of time.
- Carry tools, food and water, extra blankets and so forth in your vehicle.
- Service the radiator and maintain antifreeze levels.
- Check tire tread. Use all-weather or winter tires.
- Keep the gas tank full to prevent ice in the tank and fuel lines.
- Be aware of weather before traveling.
In the end, preparation won’t prevent winter storms from happening, but being prepared minimizes the effects and allows you to confidently cope with an unpleasant situation.
In one of my favorite movies, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Mel Brooks says (and I’m paraphrasing) that so much in life depends on --- Location! Location! Location!
I would say that dealing effectively with unexpected events depends on -- Preparation! Preparation! Preparation!
My final winter storm prep advice is to have emergency kits for your vehicle, workplace, and especially for your home. Keep your workplace and vehicle compact for easy storage. Prepping your home for winter will take a little more effort --- remember your home will be your long-term fortress against the storms. Stock it well.