Preparing for the storm: Advice and suggestions

Good evening.

It has been a busy day here as we have made our first call on the snow forecast. It expects to be a very high impact storm, likely crippling for some areas especially in the mid-Atlantic. There is still uncertainty, so areas on the edge of the extreme amounts (at least 50 to 100 miles either side) should also be preparing for such as well. In addition, those preparing for other high impacts should make their preparedness. Now is the time, and tomorrow is a big day for preparing. The storm should begin Friday in the west and spread east and northeast over the weekend.

How to keep you and your family safe

I know everyone is rushing out already for the famous staples: bread, milk and toilet paper. Those are useful, but there are many other things that are important. I highly recommend that ALL families have at least a 72 hour supply of items (with zero hour being the start of the storm) in case roads are impassable or power goes out. In the areas expecting the absolute worst conditions (or near them to account for track shifts), I would extend that time range out to 5 days of supplies in urban areas and 7 days in rural areas. It will take a lot of time to plow the snow from local roads and side streets, and power outages are likely given the wind and snow forecast.

Some items that I would personally recommend:

  • At least one gallon of drinking water, per person, per day (for a family of 4, I would recommend 12 to 28 gallons, or 48 to 112 standard size bottles)
  • Ice for a camping cooler, in order to keep drinks and refrigerator food longer if the power goes out
  • Propane or charcoal for a barbecue on the patio – NEVER cook with gas indoors though due to the carbon monoxide risk! Likewise, never use a generator indoors, including in a garage – always use it at least 20 feet away from any vents.
  • Plenty of cans or bottles (personal size) of your favorite juices, or cans of soda – they stay fresh longer than large sizes
  • Cookies, chips, crackers, chocolate – snacks that are in the cupboard
  • Canned foods such as vegetables, stew, chili, soup and lunch type food which require little cooking, make sure you have a can opener though

  • Extra toppings like peanut butter, jelly and honey (thanks Kathryn Prociv!)
  • Plenty of batteries, a hand-held or battery operated radio and flashlights, ideally also a NOAA Weather Radio
  • Portable chargers for cell phones (if possible), otherwise make sure it is fully charged
  • Extra cash, in case you can’t go out and have emergencies
  • Additional blankets, clothes and outerwear – and do laundry before the storm so they are all available to use
  • Prescription drugs, plus any non-prescription medications you or your family may require for any illnesses that may come up
  • Clean up the yard and remove any items that may become projectiles in high winds
Don’t travel!

If you are expecting major snow and/or freezing rain, roads will be extremely dangerous and likely impassable. Visibility will also be very poor to nil in areas that receive wind and snow. You are risking your life and the lives of rescuers and first responders by traveling during a major storm. The best place to be is safe at home for the duration of the storm. That will likely be at least 3 days and possibly up to 7 days.

For the kids

I know kids may think a blizzard means snow and having fun, but during the storm it can be too dangerous to be outdoors as you can be stranded easily with blowing snow and high winds. Same applies during ice storms. Some thoughts to get kids through what could be a boring several days:

  • Extra coloring books, ideally on the theme if possible or their favorite cartoons
  • Extra crayons or pencils for them to be creative
  • Another book or two for them to read and be introduced to (I already made a suggestion – Janice Dean‘s Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard), so go to the library and get a few more books
  • Another stuffed animal or two (make it his or her “blizzard buddy”)
  • If the power stays on, download more movies or have them available to watch
Productivity during the storm

Many jobs allow telecommuting today or online conferences. I would suggest having a laptop and charger, or a tablet charged, through the duration of the storm ready for work. Given the timeframe, western areas should do that after work tomorrow, while eastern areas after work Friday. You may not be heading back to work as normal on Monday, especially in the areas hardest hit. Of course, this all is dependent on power unless you have a generator. Also bring home all your projects and proposals, and for students in K-12 or college, have all your books and homework available to do during and after the storm. Certainly don’t treat this as a vacation – you’ll be better off later if you are ahead of the game. Going to a public library and borrowing additional books will help you pass the time as well.

Special needs

Remember to check on neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled. They may need extra assistance during and after the storm if they cannot provide the services themselves. Be a good neighbor – cook for them, provide them services and give them supplies if you need to. Consider finding an alternate location for them where assistance can be provided, such as another family member’s home, especially if they live in rural areas. Phone service may be sparse at times.

Don’t forget your pets! Make sure you have a 3 to 7 day supply of adequate pet food, litter (for cats) and cleanup supplies. Don’t let them outdoors during the storm as they could get stranded just like humans can – and possibly freeze to death.

Coastal residents

While the snow (and ice) have received most of the headlines, coastal flooding and winds are another major threat. Most people in that region have prepared for hurricanes, particularly Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012. Consider the coastal impact to be similar (although not necessarily equal or greater in magnitude) to that of a hurricane hit. After all, winter storms are also powerful storms, just typically larger and broader rather than more concentrated, and cold core rather than warm core. I would recommend boarding up coastal properties and evacuating if you think you will be flooded or stranded. Certainly you should have up to 7 days worth of supplies if staying. Check with your local public library or municipal office tomorrow if you are concerned that you are in a coastal flood zone.

Final thoughts

A major winter storm is bearing down on most of the US east coast, particularly the mid-Atlantic, with significant impacts stretching from the Carolinas to southern New England. There are multiple threats – high winds, heavy snow, freezing rain and coastal flooding – that are all impacting areas differently. You should be prepared for the worst case scenario based on what is possible in your area, since this is a long-lasting storm and you must also deal with the aftermath. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to tweet me them, this is just a list that I have compiled.

Stay safe everyone!

Forecaster Craig Ceecee – @Ceecee_Wx

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