The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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!


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  1. Rule one: Live in Florida…

    • Jean

      Hmm. Fewer natural disasters and plenty of sunshine, but no real seasons, higher humidity, all of the allergies and even more and bigger bugs. Seems like kind of a trade-off.

      • Oh, agreed that it’s a trade-off, but the thrust of the article was surviving a winter storm. The easy solution is to live in a place where winter storms don’t happen. 🙂

        That said, Florida DOES have season; they just aren’t the usual temperate four. We have what you would consider fall, go straight to spring, have an early summer and then it’s HELL for 3-4 months.

        • Jean

          I like Florida well enough. It also has beaches, so you’re up on us there. Would that we could get out of Dodge and flee to Florida for the next two weeks.

  2. I have a plan for if we lose power: pack up all the cats and the people, and migrate to my grandparents. They have a gas fireplace, and if we lose power for more than an hour or two, Tabby won’t make it, not in his current condition. I will risk driving on ice to try and keep him alive.

    Though someone *coughthehubbycough* will have to stay at the house and take care of the chickens.

    But, I highly doubt we’ll lose power. We didn’t last year when we had a night of freezing rain.

    • Jean

      That sounds like a good plan. I’m not terribly worried about losing power, but sometimes we get taken by surprise and I want to have some kind of plan just in case.

      I’ll be praying for you and Tabby. *hugs*

  3. Nice blog 🙂

    I live in KY and we went thru that Ice storm, we lost a large number of trees and went without power for several days. We were lucky, some people went a couple weeks without power or heat. you couldn’t find an empty hotel room!

    I have a fire place and a wood burning stove in the family room downstairs in the basement ( don’t think OK has many basements do they? )

    I also have a generator which gave us lights, TV and the wood I have here kept us warm and we cooked on the wood burner. We even invited neighbors over 🙂

    The generator was not enough to run the hot water heater so we warmed up what we needed on the stove.

    I know that is not an option if you do not have one but in a previous house, we used a kerosene heater for warmth and if you have one of the larger round ones, it has a grate on the top that allows you enough room to boil a pretty decent size pot of water and cook with a skillet.

    One of the items I have just found is a product called “stove in a can” I wont go into the details due to length of this post but I will add a link to the info

    Another thing to consider, fill your gas tank in your car. As a last resort, you can sit in it with the heat running….but be sure it is outside and not in the garage!

    if you have a kerosene heater, don’t forget to fill your jug before the storm

    I have some other tips on my blog if anyone is interested

    Thanks for your blog, keep up the good work!

    • Jean

      Thanks for the info, Dan. I like the looks of that Stove in a Can.

      I didn’t realize that 2007 ice storm reached as far as KY. We had a similar experience — we were only without power for about five days, which made us one of the lucky ones.

      And yes, OK has plenty of basements (though our house doesn’t have one). Here, we call them hidey-holes, because that’s where we hide from tornadoes.

      Thanks for commenting!

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