This morning, I was much less than thrilled to hear the local forecasters predicting a major storm. We often joke in this area that the local chain supermarket pays the weather man on the only Asheville TV station to forecast much more snow than we’ll wind up getting in a bid to sell extra milk, bread, eggs and bottled water. Historically, they predict worse weather than we wind up getting so many people cook French Toast in their warm homes the morning after the storm, but this year that has not been so.
This could potentially be our second major storm this winter, with the prediction that we might get large amounts of snow beginning on Thursday. We did see snow Monday and it’s been quite cold this week, so I won’t be surprised if we do wind up with another big storm. We went through an extended storm in December that dumped 15 inches of snow with 2-3 foot drifts with the power out for a few days and three downed trees on our house. Some people in the immediate area went without power for a week. Due to icy conditions on our roller-coaster road with no curb and sudden drops off the sides and multiple trees downed across the road, we were stuck in our house for a week. We have one ‘hill’ at the top of our road that if you drive over at any real speed, you get the sinking feeling in your gut that you’ve just gone over the edge, like cresting the big hill at the beginning of a roller coaster. We knew that getting out would be difficult at best since none of our vehicles have 4WD. You might notice in the picture above that we’re living on a 3:1 slope and there are steeper places in our neighborhood. The snow from that storm took over a month to melt on our little patch of the wooded mountain. These storms are quite unusual for our area, but we must be prepared for them in case it does get bad.
Here is a list of what I do to prepare for a Winter snow or ice storm that could involve an extended power outage.
- Catch up on all laundry and check to make sure no blankets or cold-weather gear need to be washed.
- Plug in all electronic devices such as laptops and cell phones to charge.
- Clean bathtubs and fill with water. If you have an emergency water holder such as a pop-up drum, fill that now.
- Fill water filter and spare pitchers in kitchen.
- Turn the heat up and get the house very warm, hang blankets to keep all of the heat in the living area.
- Empty fireplace of ashes and restart fire. If you don’t have a fireplace, prepare whatever method of non-electric heat you have.
- Run dishwasher, get all dishes washed and the kitchen completely cleaned. Hand wash everything after each meal once the snow starts in case power goes out before there’s enough to run a load.
- Fill all cars with gas, get extra gas for the chainsaw if you have trees near your house, barn or well-pump. Gas for the generator.
- Get out the paper plates, napkins, cups and thermos put in an out-of-the-way place in your kitchen.
- Make a big pot of soup that can reheat on the wood-burning heater. If you don’t have a fireplace, prepare your cooking method. If you have enough warning, cook multiple meals ahead. I typically make muffins, sandwich wraps and the like so we don’t need to use the fireplace to heat things up for at least one meal a day. If you don’t have an easy way to heat food during a power outage, consider cooking two or three days worth of bread, muffins and the like.
- Clean out the fridge, cook or freeze all meat in fridge, cook any veggies that might go bad within a few days.
- Take out all trash.
- Bring in enough firewood for several days and stack the excess in the basement.
- Check insulation on the water pipes and well.
- Fill the livestock waterers and feeders and plug in the barn/coop heat lamps. Double-check to make sure any new eggs haven’t been laid.
- Get out the candles, matches, oil lamps, flashlights, emergency radio. One candle in each room, the lantern in the bathroom, a clip-on flashlight on each person. It was already dark when the power went out with the last storm, so the clip-on flashlights helped the kids be calm about the sudden dark and come to where we were without harm.
- Inventory food to make sure there is a week’s worth of easy-to-prepare meals. Make sure you have a manual can-opener.
- Run to the feed store, grocery store or hardware store if needed. Buy everything needed for the next week. I normally focus on fruit, protein sources and root vegetables that don’t need refrigeration. Do you have appropriate tarps, rope and thelike if your house was damaged by a falling tree?
- Cover the garden if needed.
- Cover all windows with bubble wrap to help hold in the heat. Use a spray bottle to lightly mist water on the window, then stick on the bubble wrap. It will cling with just water. This will increase the R value of your windows by one point.
- Hang spare drapes or blankets over uncovered windows.
- Prep the generator if you have one. Do you need any spare parts? Oil? I don’t have a generator to advise you, so check your manual and be prepared.
- Set out the cold-weather work gear and heavy boots and get the necessary equipment out in case trees have to be removed from off of the house.
- Locate and prepare needed items to care for the livestock in the bad weather. When we have a snowstorm, we have to go out and check on the chickens several times a day and often it involves breaking ice if we loose power. Bring in eggs at every check or else they’ll freeze and crack.
- Move kid’s mattresses and sleeping bags to the living area. I sleep on the couch and Jeff sleeps in his recliner. That way, we don’t sleep in the cold bedrooms.
- Move a bag of baby wipes and spare clothing into the living area, organized into bins, for each family member. This prevents the kids from having to go to their cold bedrooms to find clothing to change into.
- Bathe everyone.
- Play ‘the pick up game.’ Give a flashlight to each child, turn out the lights, and let them go all over the house with the flashlights, looking for things on the floor people might trip or hurt their feet on.
When the power is out, we juggle the items on top of the wood-burning heater. Typically, I put water on to heat as soon as I get up, before checking the wood itself, so it can begin warming for oatmeal or another easy breakfast. As soon as that is done, I put more water on to warm for washing dishes and bathing. Then soup for lunch goes next, more water for dishes or baths, then dinner. We typically wind up with something on the stove all of the time, between heating food and needing hot water for cleaning or bathing. I find even though it’s very cold, most people sweat more than normal due to being bundled up, so daily sponge-bathing is necessary to prevent skin problems if you aren’t active. If you are active or having to make repairs from the storm, more frequent bathing will likely be needed to prevent skin irritation. Washing dishes as soon as they are used minimizes the work and amount of water needed to get them clean, especially if you are consuming oatmeal or another sticky food.
Keep a thermos or two available for these types of storms. You can prepare hot chocolate, hot tea or another warm drink or even soup on top of the heater then pour into the thermos to clear space for another item to go onto the stove. This allows you to enjoy warm nourishment through the day without having to hog space on the heater.
KerryAnn Foster runs Cooking Traditional Foods, the longest running Traditional Foods Menu Mailer on the internet. KerryAnn has over nine years of traditional foods experience and is a former Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader. Founded in 2005, CTF helps you feed your family nourishing foods they will love. Each mailer contains one soup, five dinners, one breakfast, on dessert and extras. You can learn more about our Menu Mailers at the CTF website. For a free sample Menu Mailer, join our mailing list. You can also join our forum to chat with other traditional foodists and learn more.