How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

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Are Mother Nature’s snow and ice spectaculars hitting your area hard this year? Having a few emergency supplies on-hand can save you a lot of discomfort and trouble when the storm hits. Stock up on items you need to survive without leaving your house for a few days, as well as tools to help you leave if necessary. Once the storm begins, cuddle up, stay informed, and stay warm.


[Edit]Stocking Up Before the Storm

  1. Get a shovel. Get a quality snow shovel so you can dig yourself out. You may also need to shovel to dig your car out once the storm is over.[1]
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    • Try the shovel out before you buy it. Check that it handles easily.
    • Consider getting a small snow shovel to dig snow out of smaller corners.
    • Rock salt is effective at melting snow, but it can be devastating for your local water and soil, not to mention the sidewalk. Use a shovel or hot water instead.
  2. Buy flashlights and battery powered lamps. Put fresh batteries in your lamps and flashlights if a storm is coming. Go for model that can power your cell phone if you can.[2]
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    • You can even make a homemade flashlight.
  3. Stock up on candles and holders. In case your flashlight suddenly gives out or you run out of batteries, you can light your home the old-fashioned way. However, fire from candles during a blackout is a real risk. If you use candles, put them in safe holders. Keep them away from anything flammable. Never leave them unattended.[3]
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  4. Fill some shelves with non-perishable food. Stock up on canned soups and vegetables, powdered food, and grains like rice and pasta. Make sure you have enough to last your family at least three or four days. Find a manual can-opener, as well.[Image:Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 1 Version 9.jpg|center]][4]
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    • If you drink coffee, get instant coffee.
    • If you have pets, stock up on pet food as well.
  5. Fill up some containers of water. If you’re worried about the pipes freezing, stock up on some water. You can buy it bottled, or in gallon jars. You can also simply purchase a few gallon jugs and fill them from the tap.[5]
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  6. Gather blankets and warm clothing. You may already have these items, but remember you will need enough blankets to keep you warm without any heat and in adverse conditions. Consider purchasing mittens, thick woolen socks, and a hooded sweatshirt, if you don’t already own these items.[6]
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  7. Locate your first aid kit. You never know what kind of injuries or emergencies will happen when the lights go out. Buy a first aid kit if you don’t have one, and familiarize yourself with the contents.
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    • Check through your kit to make sure you have sterile bandages, disinfectant, antibiotic ointment, and over-the-counter painkillers available.
  8. Get your hands on a camping stove or grill. A gas-powered camping stove is a wise investment for any emergency situation. If you have an electric stove in the kitchen a camp stove is almost a necessity. Be sure you use it with proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and have plenty of backup fuel.
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 8.jpg
  9. Find some matches. You can use these to light your gas range, camping stove, and candles. Do not rely on lighters, as these can run out of fuel or break down all too easily.[7]
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 9.jpg
  10. Ensure you have a phone you can use. Get a cordless cellphone charger if you can. Landline phones work during power outages because the power comes from the phone company. However, cordless home phones will not work when the power is out.[8]
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 10.jpg
    • Many states require at least one wall plugged phone, which receives power from the telephone connection, in all households.
  11. Stock up on diapers, formula, and baby food. If you have an infant, make sure you have a few days of supplies for them. Consider getting disposable diapers, as you may not be able to do laundry.[9]
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 11.jpg
    • Buy powdered milk, as fresh milk may spoil.
  12. Get a refill on your prescription medications. If you’re not due for a refill, call your doctor and explain that you’re worried about running out during the storm. Get enough to last you for several days.
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 12.jpg
    • In some states, pharmacies are permitted to issue emergency refills when there’s a dangerous weather alert. Check your state’s law.[10]
  13. Consider investing in a battery operated radio. It’s best not to rely on cell service or wireless connections during a storm. With a radio, you can get news without wall power. Make sure the batteries are good. You can buy a motion charging radio, as you can with a flashlight.[11]
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 13.jpg

[Edit]Planning Far in Advance

  1. Winterize your home. Protecting your house and outbuildings from the cold can save you a lot of money and hassle down the line. Insulate walls and attics, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and installing storm windows or cover windows with plastic.
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 14.jpg
    • Clear rain gutters and repair roof leaks in order to avoid clogging and flooding.
    • Cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
    • Consider hiring a contractor to check the structural strength of the roof. Make sure your roof can sustain the unusually heavy weight of snow – or water.
    • Insulate pipes with insulation and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
  2. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector. If you ever need to run a gas stove inside your home for heat or cooking, you’ll definitely want a carbon monoxide detector on-hand. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, but deadly.[12]
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 15.jpg
  3. Keep your supplies current. Check the batteries in your flashlights every so often, and make sure you have enough potable water and non-perishable food to last your family at least 48 hours. Once every year or two, replace your current stock of canned goods with a fresh batch
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 16.jpg
  4. Consider investing in a generator. If the power frequently goes out where you live, consider getting a portable or stationary electrical generator. Generators cost anywhere form $ 400 to $ 10,000 dollars.[13]
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 17.jpg
    • Run the generator outdoors. Do not run it in your house or your garage.
    • Plug equipment directly into the generator. Do not use your home’s electrical system while the power is out, as this could harm utility crews.[14]

[Edit]Staying Safe During the Storm

  1. Keep the heat in. Losing heat is definitely uncomfortable, but you can survive it if you keep yourself warm.[15]
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 18.jpg
    • Stop your pipes from freezing. Go around your house and turn on every faucet so that it’s dripping just slightly. Keeping the water moving through the pipes should help prevent them from freezing.
    • Seal up any drafts. Put towels at the bottom of any doors that have a gap, or around loose windows. If your windows are single-paned, close the curtains or pin a blanket up over them to keep the heat in.
  2. Keep yourself warm. Bundle up in warm clothes and stay near your loved ones. If you’re all in a room together you’ll help keep each other warm with your body heat.
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 19.jpg
    • Dress in layers. Put on a thin layer of cotton clothing close to your skin, and cover as much as your body as you can. Long underwear or warm leggings will help. On top of that, wear as many layers as you need to keep warm, finishing with one (or two) pairs of warm woolen socks and a sweatshirt or coat with a hood.
    • Wear a hood. You lose a lot of heat from the top of your head, so keep it covered. If you don’t have hooded clothing, wrap a scarf or towel around your head, or put on a warm winter hat.
    • Stay in bed. Put as many covers as you have left over onto your bed, and hop in. Keeping your body heat in an enclosed space like the sheets will help you stay as warm as possible.
    • Cuddle up. Join forces with a freezing roommate or family member and huddle under the same blankets — you’ll warm up faster.
  3. Stay updated. Having current information is vital in an emergency, so make arrangements to stay informed.
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    • Watch updates on the news or listen to the radio for as long as you can before power goes out.
    • Use social media for updates. If you don’t have access to a battery-operated radio, follow national and local disaster agencies (such as FEMA) on Facebook and Twitter. Check periodically for updates.
    • Use SMS messaging if land-line service is down. You can send an SMS via basic text messaging, or through Twitter updates. Get the phone numbers or Twitter handles of all your family members, and make sure they know how to reach you.
    • Keep tabs on your family members. Try to find out where everyone is before the storm and make a plan to stay in a safe location. If you’re going to be separated from anyone, set up a pre-determined time and method for touching base again, such as connecting via text message every 12 hours.
  4. Keep the fridge closed. This will help it stay cool in spite of the lack of power, and keep your food from spoiling as quickly. Only open it when it’s absolutely necessary, grab what you need, and close it up.[16]
    Prepare for a Winter Storm Step 21.jpg
    • Place frozen items outside. Make use of Mother Nature’s freezer, and put them in a snowbank outside. If temperatures are below freezing, you could also keep refrigerated items in an enclosed porch.
  5. Plan some entertainment. It can help you stave off boredom while you wait for the power to return.
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    • Play cards. Use a classic deck for games like Blackjack, Poker, War, Go Fish, Crazy Eights or Egyptian Ratscrew.
    • Read a book (to yourself, or aloud for others). Try to pick an engrossing epic that will keep you engaged and entertained for hours, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter novels, or whatever interesting book you happen to be reading.
    • Get artsy. Draw on pads of paper, or do handcrafts like crocheting or knitting.



  • Never use charcoal, or a propane heater in an enclosed area without proper ventilation. Carbon monoxide can build up. Silent and odorless, it is deadly. Cook on the back porch or near an open window.

[Edit]Things You’ll Need

  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
  • Canned food
  • Can opener
  • Battery powered radio
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • A self powered radio and a self powered flashlight. Batteries will run down eventually, especially if you live in a remote area that is iced in. Some models will also charge your cell phone.
  • Coleman stove or grill
  • Enough fuel to run the stove
  • Blankets
  • Lots of clothing
  • Water
  • First aid kit
  • Foot and hand warmer packs
  • Matches
  • Extra hats, socks and mittens
  • Any necessary medications
  • Non-electric entertainment: books, cards, board games, etc.
  • Portable fire extinguisher
  • Pet supplies: food, litter and water for your pet to drink. An emergency shelter lined up (who will take pets) in case you need to evacuate.

[Edit]Related wikiHows

  • Stockpile Food
  • Survive a Winter Storm
  • Dig out Your Car After a Snow Storm
  • Dress for the Cold
  • Protect Yourself in a Thunderstorm
  • Get Prepared for a Natural Disaster


[Edit]Quick Summary

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