In some parts of North America, winter has been full of surprises and treacherous conditions in recent weeks. Several friends of ours have written with their experiences. It is one thing to experience ice and snow where it comes with seasonal regularity, but when it afflicts parts of the country where it is unexpected, life can come to a stop, and some can get hurt. Dallas, for example, was still struggling to get back on its feet while the Superbowl got underway.
Gratefully, while some of our readers were without power for long periods of time, none had their roof cave in or were stuck overnight in their car during an ice storm. Nevertheless, their first hand accounts illustrate many of the things we try to prepare for, and provide the chance to learn and apply their experiences to our own planning.
From a small town near Dallas:
“It has been pretty crazy here north of Dallas, Texas, but we are doing great. We were prompted before Christmas to get firewood for the fireplace which we don’t normally use. It was great to have plenty of wood just to keep the fire going.
“We got rain and then sleet right at the beginning, so there was a thick layer of ice underneath everything the whole time. Then it snowed some, but mostly it was just very cold. They closed the schools on Tuesday and then they stayed closed the rest of the week. I’ve lived here since 1973 and NEVER have known the schools to close for more than two days in a row, let alone four.
“The buses in our district were sent out on a trial run on Thursday. One could only go half his route and another got stuck and trapped. They were saying we might get 1-3 inches of snow on Friday morning, but we woke up to 3-4 inches. It had not gotten above freezing all week, so this [new snow] was just sitting on the ice and made it extremely dangerous to be out. My husband slipped on it once. This may sound like nothing to those of you up North, but it just doesn’t happen in Texas, so most don’t really know how to drive in it and 80-90 percent stay home. There were a lot of things shut down.
“Many homes run on heat pumps that utilize the A/C unit outside, but when it gets too cold for that they have to switch to run only on the inside unit. It takes a lot more power. Some of the power plants broke down, so they were doing rolling black outs through the area. Some areas were out from 10 min. to 3 or 4 hours. Ours didn’t go out, but one area in our ward was out about 3 hours.
“I think the stores were almost empty at times and then really busy at other times. They were out of a lot of things because of low deliveries and there were lots of people at the stores in the afternoons when it was better to be out.”
Notice that our Texas friend says they were “prompted” to get firewood. I have heard this more and more the past year, and from people of all faiths. Many who make such comments are listening and acting on such promptings, and hopefully we who have been warned to be prepared since the days of Brigham Young are listening and acting, too.
As our friend noted, freezing temperatures, snow and freezing rain may be normal in the Northern States and an easy ride for those who are accustomed to this weather, but if it is not normal for you, then you may have a steep learning curve. Those who say ‘it just doesn’t happen here’ have been proven wrong time and again. If your area has ever had an earthquake, whether ten years ago or a thousand years ago, it can happen again. Recently there was discussion and a government report issued about the 40 day rains that caused the Central Valley in California to be submerged in ten feet of water 150 years ago. At the time, the governor had to go by rowboat to his capitol office. Experts now tell us if it happened then, it could happen again. Get to know the weather history in your area.
Also from the Dallas area:
“We are in the Dallas, Texas area, and are unaccustomed to multiple days of freezing weather. My husband, a New Jersey boy who is familiar with this type of weather, is trying to get our plumbing back up and flowing… Looking forward to a hot shower after four days without water! In all other areas we are doing fine.”
What we learn: This family did not have their power go out, shutting down their well. The municipal water supply was fine, but they were still without water for four days. Frozen pipes often mean broken pipes. Would you know how to wrap and protect your pipes? Are you prepared to be the exception to what you consider the likely consequences of a severe weather event? Do you have water stored for four days or more?
“In Southeast Oklahoma the snow is about all gone today. Our neighbor went shopping for us this afternoon and said our driveway is the only one on this street that is still ice/snow covered. It has just now started to sprinkle rain so hope it washes the streets clear. We need to go to town for a few things before the next storm hits Tuesday night. Okies along Red River are just not used to all this frozen stuff and even the dogs are suffering cabin fever.
“Our store of food in the house has done well; however, we could not get in the cellar to access the main stash since hubby has a broken leg and I don’t navigate steps very well.
“I ran out of ice melt yesterday, though I thought four jugs would be enough for this area. Lowes here is out of stock, so ordered some online… Just don’t know if it will be here in time for the next round mid-week. Ice Melt is definitely something we should consider storing. Any suggestions on what type of containers it should be stored in and how long it will keep?”
Is your food storage easy to access? If not, you should have a plan in place in case you find yourself in the position this Oklahoma family did. What if a tornado swept through or an earthquake struck and your husband or wife or older kids were unable to get home? Could those who are left to “hold down the fort” access the food? Is all the food in the basement? What would happen if there was a flood? It might be wise to store food in more than one location in your home.
Some supplies that may never be needed might have to be stored for years, but are essential to handling such exceptional events. Things like ice melt fit in this category, and are not that expensive to acquire.
News from Kansas:
“The weather here on the northern Kansas/Missouri border has been more snowy then usual. My kids were wishing for enough snow to play in when the main storm hit.
We got around one foot of snow. Very uncommon for this area. Luckily we have had no power outages, which I am thankful for. We have no alternative for heat should our electricity fail. I am trying to find a solution for that. One that won’t cost us an arm and a leg.
“Food has been fine, since I stored up. Went to the store this weekend and stocked up on the perishables. We are supposed to get another round of snow this week. Maybe up to three inches. Then it is supposed to get warmer and we will have mud city around here.”
Thanks Kansas. We learn that sometimes, if not for good luck, we are one second away from disaster. This family was lucky to have heat, but what if the power had gone out? How would you be able to face your children if you had no heat in the winter or no plans for cooling during a sweltering heat wave in July? If you need help to understand how to keep warm during a power outage, please listen to our blog-talk radio show READY OR NOT. You do not have to spend a lot of money to keep your family safe. You simply need to learn some skills – but firewood or a generator would be really valuable, too.
Now that the ice is melting following recent storms, there are new dangers to be aware of. When temperatures are still below freezing at night there will be black ice on the roads in the morning. As snow melts off the roof it freezes over night in the gutters and can cause ice jams which can send water into the walls of your home as it melts in the morning. Flooding can occur on roads and waterways as snow melts quickly. If you have a basement and snow piled near your home, watch for leaks in the basement through the windows and in the window wells.
“We were sent home from work last Wednesday after the power went on and off several times. It was not a good work day as many lost their work. Friday work was just canceled because we had been warned there would be rolling blackouts throughout the day. This did happen and we were without power at home for four hours. Our daughters did not even notice as it was daytime and school had also been canceled so they just played by the light of the sun. All of this was caused by cold weather and the power companies were not prepared for the demand and blackouts were the way to avoid the entire grid
First we learn that if we are prepared both physically with food and supplies, and emotionally so you aren’t stressed, your children will not be affected in a negative way.
Secondly, power grids can handle only so much stress. After Katrina, power went out more than 50 miles away due to stress on the grid. The hurricane or ice storm may happen miles and miles away but your power may still be affected. If you can prepare for only one disaster, make it the loss of power.
Thankfully none of these families experienced life threatening circumstances. Other families did. Yet, there are still things we should be learning from the experience of others, and using to improve our preparations.
Madame Curie said: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. Preparedness brings peace, confidence, and hope during times when others around us have lost theirs, freeing us to focus on the things that are most important.
For help with your preparedness questions visit Carolyn’s blog and be sure to tune into her radio show every Tuesday night on the Preparedness Radio Network, 6:00pm Pacific~ 9:pm Eastern. And be sure to check the Totally Ready face book page and “like” it!