According to the National Weather Service, 18 winter storms froze the United States in the 2021-2022 snowy season. It started with the Intermountain West to Northern Plains Winter Storm, from October 13 to 14, and ended with the Northern Rockies and Plains Winter Storm from April 24 to 25.
However, for Texas residents, the most significant storm in recent history occurred from February 13 to 17, 2021. The Weather Channel called it Winter Storm Uri. Uri dumped up to eight inches of snow on the state, along with about half an inch of ice and freezing temperatures. Texans quickly learned the power grid was unable to withstand the weather. More than 4.5 million people lost power, some of them at a loss for as many as four days. Pipes froze, wind turbines and natural gas pipelines stopped working, and nearly 250 people died.
Winter storms wreak havoc no matter where they hit. These intense weather conditions can lead to car accidents, water damage inside and outside homes, frostbite, power outages, ice damming, and even heart attacks from shoveling snow out of the way. That being said, it doesn’t have to be a tragedy if you’re adequately prepared. Here’s what you need to do to prepare for winter storms — and hopefully save energy and money at the same time.
For Single-Family Homes (Usually Not Apartments)
Weatherproof Your House
Buy some weather stripping and seal your windows and doors around your home. This will keep cold air outside and trap the warm air in (should the heat go out). You can also buy film for your windows designed to keep the cold air out. Check the seals around your vents and outlets as well — they can be an unexpected source of drafts.
Trim Your Trees
This is especially important if you live in a wooded area or a spot with a lot of old trees. The wind from winter storms can knock branches down, which can damage your home. Be sure to walk around your property to check for any branches that have the potential to fall on your house. If you see any, save yourself the trouble later and cut them down now.
Purchase a Generator
If the power goes out for an extended period of time, you’ll probably want a back-up method to keep your electricity running. Portable generators are great if you’re not in an area that frequently has outages. Just be sure you’re never running it in an enclosed space with no ventilation — you don’t want carbon monoxide poisoning!
No Matter Where You Live…
Create a Disaster Plan
It’s important to have a plan for you and your family should a winter storm strike. Will you need to evacuate or stay in place, and what’s the evacuation route if necessary? How will you communicate with each other? What if the power goes out? What will you do with your pets? All of these questions should be part of your plan. Think of every possible outcome of a winter storm and include it in the plan.
Have Proper Clothing
Think in layers. You want to be able to pile on enough clothing to keep you warm, but you also want to be able to take it off in moderation so you can match your clothing level to your temperature preference. If you keep clothing in your home that’s good for layering, you’ll be set.
Let Faucets Drip
One of the most frequent home disasters from winter storms is when your pipes burst. The water running through them freezes, and then expands, breaking the pipes open — and then all that water heading into the pipe leaks into your house instead. If it’s going to be freezing temperatures outside for several hours, you can do a few things to stop pipes from freezing. First, do what you can to insulate your pipes. There’s pipe-specific insulation you can buy at the hardware store to help. Second, keep a drip or trickle running from all the faucets. Running water is more likely not to freeze. You can also keep plumbing-concealing cabinets open, allowing the warmer air from inside your home to circulate around the pipes.
Help Your Pets
Our pets are family members too. Make sure you have a plan for them should something happen. Stock up on pet food when you hear that a winter storm is on the way. Make sure you have enough water in bottles to keep them hydrated (if the water lines freeze). And always bring them inside and ensure they have proper pet clothing or coats to keep them warm. Remember, if you’re cold, they’re cold too.
Prepare Emergency Items
Winter storms have a tendency to block people into their homes for multiple days at a time. Either there’s snow piled up against your door or car, there’s a ton of ice stopping you from driving, or something else could be keeping you in. Regardless, it’s important to stock up on emergency items. You’ll want a flashlight, first aid supplies, a radio that gets weather broadcasts, batteries, money, blankets, medications (both prescription and non), important documents, money, a fire extinguisher, and more. Think about what could potentially go wrong and plan for that. It’s better to be over prepared than unprepared. Don’t forget about extra food and water — you’ll need to eat and drink!
Remember: As long as you’re prepared for what could happen, you can mitigate or alleviate some of the winter storm damage. And with all these tips, hopefully you’ll just be able to enjoy the snow.