Preparing for winter in 30 steps
Winter looks very different depending on whether you're above or below the Mason-Dixon Line. Below that imaginary line, which runs along on the northern edges of West Virginia and Maryland, winter weather might mean highs in the 50s and snow on rare occasions. Above, you’re talking about black ice, gusting winds, inches upon inches of snow, and road and school closures (particularly for those living in mountaneous regions or along the Snowbelt of the Great Lakes). If you’re not used to it, your first real winter can be disconcerting. How do you prepare? Do you need an ice scraper (and what does it look like)? How are snow boots different from regular winter boots?
A common misconception is that our recent spate of record-breaking winters runs counter to a global “warming” crisis. Others believe the crisis only makes warm summers hotter. The full picture, however, is that global warming makes both ends of the weather spectrum more extreme, and that means even harsher winters. Take this past winter, for example, when Arctic air blew across the country in a highly publicized Polar Vortex.
Whether you believe in the science behind the impending brutal winter season or wish to ignore the cold while you still can during the fall months, we’re guessing you’d still rather be prepared head-to-toe far ahead of time. When the next morning of waking up to another “record low” or “record snowfall” arrives, it’ll be better if you’re stocked up on proper insulation, snow gear, warm socks—and favorite canned soup.
We know preparing for extreme winter weather can seem overwhelming. That’s why Stacker compiled the following recommendations from the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other government organizations, in addition to meteorologists and experts. Follow these 30 steps and you’ll be prepared for anything the weather throws at you: freezing rain, sleet, snow, even full-on blizzard conditions. Once you have a good pair of gloves, snow tires, and an emergency plan, the weather report doesn’t seem so dreadful after all.
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#1. Make an emergency plan with your family
Foremost, experts recommend that everyone develop an emergency plan—regardless of the climate in which you live. Consider that you may not be together when a storm hits. According to the Department of Homeland Security, your plan should cover where you should evacuate in case of emergency, where you will find shelter if you can’t make it home, and how you will communicate with your family.
#2. Learn the three major winter weather warnings
The National Weather Service could issue a Winter Storm Watch, a Winter Weather Advisory, or a Winter Storm Warning, depending on the severity of the storm. Each warning merits a different reaction: The lowest level, a Winter Storm Watch, makes citizens aware of potentially hazardous conditions. A Winter Weather Advisory is issued when ice, snow, or wintry mix is expected. Finally, a Winter Storm Warning coincides with a significant amount of winter weather, so expect school cancellations and office closings for the day.
#3. Pack a 'go' bag
As the name implies, a "go" bag contains everything you would need to leave the house in an emergency: copies of all your important documents, an extra set of keys, cash, bottled water, nonperishable food, medications, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and toiletries.
#4. Make sure you have a warm coat
Just any old parka won’t do. For a coat that’s warm enough to keep you toasty in below-freezing temperatures, you’ll want to go with a weatherproof exterior and down or microfiber insulation. Layering is always best.
#5. Get insulated winter boots with good traction
Winter weather conditions can make walking outside treacherous—whether because of snow or black ice. Stay on your feet with a pair of boots with rubber soles with plenty of traction, waterproof uppers, and a warm lining. L.L. Bean and Sorel are two popular, trustworthy brands.
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#6. Purchase weatherproof gloves
If your extremities feel cold, the rest of your body will feel cold, so don’t skimp on the gloves. Opt for gloves made of synthetic material, as they are more water-resistant and windproof than gloves made from natural fibers like cotton or wool. Gloves are obviously crucial to avoiding frostbite when shovelling or exposing yourself to the weather for prolonged periods.
#7. Layer up
It’s not all about the outer layers: What goes under your clothes matters, too. Stock up on long underwear, wool socks, fleece-lined tights, and lightweight jackets you can wear underneath your coat. You can always remove a layer if you’re too warm.
#8. Get a warm hat, scarf, and other winter accessories
Complete your selection of blizzard-proof clothing with a cozy hat, scarf, or cowl and anything else you need to stay warm. To preserve body heat and prevent hypothermia, always ensure these clothing items remain as dry as possible.
#9. Create an emergency supply kit
Experts recommend keeping enough supplies in your home to allow you to survive on your own for a full week in case of emergency. Your emergency supply kit should include flashlights, a battery-operated AM/FM radio, extra batteries, a whistle, iodine tablets, toiletries, a first aid kit, and any prescriptions you take regularly.
#10. Prepare a three-day supply of food
Keep enough nonperishable food to last for at least three days in the event of a power outage. Try to include foods that are high in both calories and nutrients to prevent malnourishment. Plus, with no way to predict where you will take shelter, pack foods that need little to no preparation or refrigeration.
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