Prepare for Winter Now: Bottled Water and Flashlights Among Necessities

This past February, the Midwest was hit by one of the most damaging winter storms in what newscasters are claiming to be decades. Our family survived the storm with little hassle, but some forethought helped us get through the worst. Perhaps hearing our story will help others as winter quickly approaches with snow and ice forecast for much of the country.

Our story began a few days before the worst hit. The warnings began to trickle in early the day before, telling citizens that this storm would pack quite a punch and if truth be told, most people took it seriously, stocking up on extra bread, water and foods that didn’t necessarily need refrigeration but there were of course those who either could not stock up or did not know what to stock up on to get them through the storm to come. For those who either could not or did not stock up, they were dependant upon friends and family for help and this is where good old Midwestern integrity and caring came into play.

When the lights went out, I began lighting candles and sending the boys to “fetch” the flashlights and extra sweatshirts as well. As they gathered back in the kitchen we took stock of what we had available. For my part, I did well planning for the upcoming storm, we had extra water, lunch meats, cheese, bread and plenty of candles and matches (something someone like myself with a no smoking household had to consider and check my supply for adequacy). I had charged the cell phone to maximum capacity and mentally checked the supply of quilts and dog food. I knew we had several flashlights and felt they were fine. That is where I made my first and only mistake. I assumed that there were adequate D batteries to run the larger flashlights in the house. There were not, and I did not find this out until AFTER we lost power. In my defense, I suspect said D battery supply somehow found its way into remote control cars and trucks and powered other flashlights during a recent sleepover my son had, but what’s done is done and I’ve learned from the situation, my new supply is now well hidden from remote control hands.

While we were checking our supplies, a neighbor called and asked if we needed anything and if we were OK, I replied that hubby was out in the storm but that we weren’t going anywhere and that we were fine. She promised to keep in touch and we agree should we need anything we’d contact the other. I then called another neighbor who had a medical condition needing an oxygen tank. They were fine on that matter, they had a portable one they were using, but they did need ice. I immediately told them they could have as much as we had, and I met their son halfway with the ice. The next morning, I found they had been using cell phones all night long, having only cordless phones in their home so I pulled a phone from my office and ran that over to them instead.

Close to noon on Sunday morning our power was restored, we were some of the lucky ones, some areas are not expected to have power for much of the week if not longer. And that brings me to the real reason I write this article. During this storm I came up with a checklist to use before the next storm. This list pertains to myself and my neighbors but could easily been adapted, with items added or deleted as needed. For want of a better term I call this my

Winter Storm Survival List
(things to check and double check when a storm is eminent)

Non-spoilable food: Bread, crackers, cheese, peanut butter, jam, lunch meat, squirt cheese and any spreads that need little or no refrigeration. NOTE: food items on this list must be safe for the weather if left out for periods of time. Obviously that which will survive a winter storm in a cooler in the garage will have less safe eating life if used during hot summer months. Think over your options and ask yourself if something will “Spoil” if the answer is yes, perhaps you should look elsewhere for food or eat those items while they are still “good”

Bottled water….I always have at least three cases of water in the house at all times. That supply along with juice boxes and bottles of drinks that do not need refrigeration are a “must have” if something happens and your tap water is not drinkable.

Flashlights and batteries. Learn from my mistake, make sure there are working flashlights for EVERY member of the family with a couple extra. In his excitement, my youngest dropped a flashlight and it broke, dropping our total lights by one. It wasn’t a problem but might have been had it been only one of two we had in the house. And as for batteries, make sure there are enough batteries for at least 4-5 changes per flashlight. Power outages are not predictable so having more than you believe you need is smart. After all, your neighbor might call in a panic, because he or she came up short and you want to be able to help out a friend when they need it. Also if you have kids, consider buying a few small flashlights for them. They will feel more empowered during the storm and if they have to go to bed in the dark than if they didn’t have one in the first place. And one word of advice, make sure you have a couple extra’s and extra batteries too. There is bound to be one kid who will drop his and break it like my son did and you want to be able to reassure him with another flashlight as soon as possible.

Candles and matches. I personally prefer the candles in jars for safety’s sake around kids but other families don’t mind the pillar kind. Either way you look at it, a good time to stock up on extra candles is after a holiday. Right after Christmas jar candles were quickly marked down to 90% off. Most shoppers ignored them due to the scent of cranberry, but I purchased a couple “just in case” and it was a good thing I did. They gave off quite a light and smelled nice too! There are plenty of sale candles on the shelves even now, my advice would be to stock up and be prepared for the next storm. They don’t take up a lot of room but are darn nice to see when you scour the cupboards for light.

That brings me to my next point. Keep all emergency lighting if possible in the same area. Keep candles either in an easily accessible box or shelf and make sure matches are nearby as well. Stumbling around in the dark isn’t fun so eliminate those first panicky moments and be organized.

Medical information and cash: A list of all medications, phone numbers of emergency contacts and cash. Yes, I know most of you have plastic but I was told many of the motels around us weren’t taking cards on the night of the storm because their machines weren’t working….thus cash would have come in mighty handy about then. Also, if you find a fast food place open and running, cash can buy a lot of precooked burgers which if wrapped in foil and set around the edges of a fire, can warm up quite nicely. In addition to all needed meds, a first aid kit is a must during a storm. That’s not to say you will most likely be leaving the house, but having one handy can save valuable time should you need one. Searching your house for even something as simple as a bandaid is an exercise in futility when the house is pitch black.

As for the list of phone numbers. How many of you have numbers programmed into your cell phones or your cordless phones? And have you considered HOW you will access said phones if the cordless has no power supply or the cell phone runs out of juice? Just a thought mind you, but one worth getting ahead on and preparing so you don’t find yourself digging for important numbers when the lights go out.

A disposable camera to take pictures of damage after the storm. Having a digital camera and a full charge on your batteries or extra batteries works well too but make sure you have an extra flash card, you may need it for picture storage should you have a great deal of damage. OR if you are bound and determined to use a digital camera, add extra batteries to your stash for it as well. Remember digital cameras use batteries quickly so add enough for two changes at least.

A saw, either a pruning or large hand held tree cutting type or if you are so inclined (and know how to use one,) a chain saw with enough power to saw through larger limbs. Remember, if you have an electric one, you will NOT be able to use it during a power outage so you most likely will want to wait until the weather clears and the electricity returns or call a tree man to come do the work for you. A decent ax is another good thing to have to remove emergency branches but again, be sure you know how to use said ax so you don’t complicate the emergency by needing medical care.

Plenty of blankets, warm clothing and winterwear should the house become extremely cold. We keep our home naturally chilly so the drop in temperature didn’t bother us much other than to throw a couple more blankets on the beds. Keep in mind that temps drop from 3-10 degrees every few hours, more when there is a strong wind so limit pet’s visits outdoors as much as possible during the storm hours. And speaking of pets, don’t forget to wrap them up in blankets as well or let them sleep with a family member and share the warmth. It’s amazing how much body heat a dog can radiate when lying next to you!

All of these ideas and many more that may pertain to your own family are imperative to think of BEFORE a winter storm hits. For when that ice comes down, stores will most likely be closed or sold out of items needed, plus driving around in a storm is never a good idea, no matter how good a driver you may be!

Good luck, and begin preparing for winter now. It will be here before you know it!

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