How Not to Prepare for a Winter Storm (or, How to Safely Not Freeze to Death)

Prepping for a winter stormThe temperature outside is in the 40s as I write this, with afternoon highs expected to reach the 50s, but I’m preoccupied with thinking up ways to stay warm.

Why? Because we’re under a winter storm warning, with temperatures expected to plummet overnight, and a “wintery mix” arriving in the morning. In Oklahoma, “wintery mix” usually means lots and lots of ice, which usually means not being able to get the car out of the driveway. Sometimes, it also means power failures. 

I’m kicking myself that we’re not better prepared for this. Ever since that big ice storm in 2007, we’ve been very diligent about preparing for winter; but this year, well, it’s been a difficult one, and our emergency food stores are pretty much depleted. Unfortunately, we won’t have money to stock up on groceries and supplies until tomorrow morning — which is right when the storm is expected to hit.

So I’m praying that the storm won’t hit as early as they expect, or if it does that the roads won’t get too bad until we’ve had a chance to run to the store. I’m also praying that the store won’t be all picked over by panicked last-minute preppers, but I’m not holding my breath. Oklahomans at a Walmart during a winter storm watch are pretty much just like that scene from King of the Hill where Hank’s trying to buy a pack of fuel filters during a tornado watch.

One thing we’re good on is batteries, which is a good thing, since those are usually the first things to disappear from the stores if there’s any threat of a power outage. We also have plenty of candles and other alternative lighting. We don’t have a fireplace, but our oven and range run on natural gas, so as long as that doesn’t get cut off, we should still be able to cook indoors if we do lose power. Otherwise, we have the charcoal grill for cooking outdoors, plus an older one that we can use as a fire pit if need be.

Other than being able to get groceries, heat is my biggest concern if we lose power. During the ‘07 ice storm, we were fortunate. The temperature stayed in the 20s and 30s, so it was enough for us to simply put on a lot of layers and pile in bed with our pets under several layers of blankets. Back then, we were living in an apartment in the upstairs of my mom’s house, so if it got too cold for us, we had the option of going downstairs to camp out by her fireplace.

Now, in our own fireplace-less house, we have no such option, and the temperature is expected to drop much lower than the 20s over the next several days and nights. Another thing that happened during the ‘07 ice storm was that a lot of people died — not from hypothermia, but from fires and carbon monoxide poisoning because they attempted unsafe means of heating their homes. So the big question on my mind right now is, if we lose power, how can we stay warm without killing ourselves?

Off the top of my head…

  • Wear plenty of layers, shut ourselves up in a small room and pile on the blankets, like we did in ‘07.

  • Make the space we need to heat even smaller by setting up our 2-person tent and camping out in it with all of our pets. Or…

  • My husband would prefer making a blanket fort to setting up the tent. Fun AND functional!

  • Heat up a big rock in the oven, or in the backyard fire pit, and bring that into our tent/fort for radiant heat.

  • Drink a lot of hot drinks.

  • Snuggle.

  • Exercise.

  • Bring hot water bottles into bed with us — we don’t actually have hot water bottles, but our Klean Kanteens wrapped in towels should do the trick. We also have hand warmers that should accomplish the same thing.

  • Rig up something similar to this:

    We don’t have any terracotta pots, but we should have something around here that can safely capture and radiate candle-powered heat — ceramic bowls, maybe, or one of my ginormous coffee mugs.

I think that’s all of our options, other than bugging out to my mom’s house and camping in front of her fireplace — but this time she lives about 30 miles away, and that simply can’t happen if the roads are too slick or we can’t get out of our driveway. At any rate, while I really hope we don’t lose power, if we do, I think we’ll manage to survive.

What do you do to stay warm during a winter power outage? I love to hear from my readers, so share your tips in the comments!