A power outage (I should say power outages – plural) is one of the most common results of a severe winter storm. Heavy snow or ice accumulating on tree branches can rapidly weigh down trees until limbs begin breaking off, some of which may land on power lines and take them down too. Strong winds may accompany a winter storm and will also take down trees, wreaking havoc on the power grid.
The worse the winter storm, the more likely you will suffer a power outage.
Here is what you need for a power outage during winter:
You need to be prepared BEFORE the winter storm. Too many people are not prepared at all, or wait until hours before the onset of predicted weather. Don’t be one of them…
That aside, don’t panic, it’s not that difficult.
One of the big concerns is staying warm (it’s winter). The degree of magnitude here will depend on your climate and will depend on whether or not you’re going through a real cold stretch…
A house without heat will get cold rather quickly – depending on how well your home is insulated. Not only do YOU want to stay warm, but your water pipes inside the walls of your home need to stay above freezing. In my estimation, your water pipes will be okay for 24-48 hours without home heat (more or less depending on your outside temperatures) because it will take significant time for cold to penetrate fully (and this is assuming that the outside temperature is well below freezing). A power outage is typically restored within the time it might take to really freeze up a house.
Tip: If the temperature inside the house drops below freezing, turn on (slightly) every faucet inside the house so that water is trickling out into the basin. This will keep the water moving through the pipes and will slow down (or possibly eliminate) bursting pipes from frozen water.
That said, let’s talk about keeping warm. Without a furnace (needs electricity to run) you have very limited options – but you need to consider them. Obviously if you have a wood stove, you’re all set. Pellet stoves (nearly all) require electricity – so your SOL there… If you already have a generator installed such that it integrates with your electrical panel, then you’re all set – However if you have not planned well ahead, buying a generator the day before a winter storm will not necessarily enable your furnace (unless you really know what you’re doing and have electrical knowledge and experience).
You will need SAFE indoor heat, and/or you will need to wear warm clothes that you wouldn’t otherwise wear while indoors (e.g. ‘long johns’, layers, double socks, etc..).
The best safe portable heater that I’ve come across (and have for my own) is the Mr. Heater Buddy (propane). I’ve previously written an article about it:
Portable Heater For Winter Survival Preparedness
FLASHLIGHTS – LANTERNS
I would certainly hope that everyone has at least one flashlight in their home. But that’s not enough. Every member of the household needs a flashlight and you should also consider a few battery operated lanterns.
If you don’t already have a flashlight with LED technology, then you should make the switch. They stay lit for MUCH LONGER and the technology has come a long way during the past few years. There are many of them to pick from. Be careful though – many of them are cheap junk, and remember the saying – ‘you get what you pay for’.
I’ve written an article on one particular ‘best’ flashlight that fit my needs at the time:
A safe alternative to a traditional lantern is an LED lantern. They will provide LOTS of hours of light, and they’re perfect for simply setting on a table or hanging somewhere. Awhile ago I reviewed what I consider to be one of the best portable lanterns:
PORTABLE BATTERY OPERATED RADIO
With a power outage comes a sharp cutoff of outside information. A battery powered portable AM/FM radio will become a valuable resource to discover information on power outage restoration expectations, storm severity and impact, etc..
I’ve written a number of articles on portable radios. Here’s one which offers up several choices – any of which might interest you:
A Preparedness Resource: Portable AM Radio
Awhile ago I reviewed what might be the best ‘cheap’ pocket portable AM/FM radio:
Best Cheap Pocket Radio
EVERYONE should have a Weather Radio. A NOAA weather radio will provide advance warning to severe weather and is useful in winter and summer (all seasons). I have a number of reviews, one of which identifies several of the best weather radios:
Weather Radio Reviews
NON PERISHABLE FOOD
During a power outage, your municipal water supply should not be affected due to an abundance of gravity-fed water storage (tanks) and/or generators which will power the water pumps at the facilities.
However those of you (including me) who have well water, you WILL NEED a generator to power the pump (unless you’ve rigged up an alternative method to withdraw the water).
That said, it is ALWAYS a good idea to keep on hand an amount of drinking water storage.
Water Barrel Storage For An Emergency
Practical, Portable Drinking Water Storage Container
That said, you will need to eat. Do not open your freezer unless you expect the power outage to linger beyond 24 to 48 hours – at which time the food inside may be thawing (you will need to eat that food – or discard it). Eat any perishable food that may be in your refrigerator during the first 12 hours – otherwise these foods may become unsafe to eat.
You should stock up on non-perishable foods that do not require cooking or refrigeration. There are all sorts of food categories for this. One handy food type is (are) food bars. Many of them will have several hundred calories each, and are also convenient for a preparedness kit. Obviously canned foods are shelf stable. Use your imagination and common sense…
Note: You can eat most all canned foods without cooking them. It’s perfectly safe – although perhaps not as palatable. Got a manual hand can-opener?
A big part of basic preparedness is being in the habit of keeping plenty of food in the house and rotating through it on a regular basis. It is not difficult at all to build several weeks or months of food storage. During a power outage you can simply draw on your stored food.
Of course there are MANY more helpful items to get you through a power outage, but this article would turn into a book.The topics mentioned above should help get you through a typical short term power outage during the winter (Warmth, Lights, Radio, Food & Water).
You could drill down to the next level while considering alternate methods of cooking without electricity, recharging your cell phone without electricity, and more – but the key to power outage preparedness is simply being prepared ahead of time ;)