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It’s a winter-weather tradition: Whenever the forecast calls for snow, folks dash to the store and deplete the supply of bread and milk. But if you’re iced in for a few days, bread and milk won't keep your family going for long or do much to maintain the morale of snowbound children and adults.
So how do you make the average home a fully-stocked winter weather shelter? It doesn't take much, but the key is to prepare before winter storms arrive.
Before the Storm
Winter storms don’t call ahead for reservations. Preparing for disruptive weather in advance means you’ll be ready whenever it comes. During good weather, University of Georgia Extension experts recommend winterizing your home by:
- insulating walls and attics
- sealing air leaks around windows and doors with caulk or weather-stripping
- installing storm doors and windows, or covering windows with plastic
University of Georgia Extension specialists recommend compiling an emergency food supply to get you through anything from winter blizzards to spring floods. As you routinely grocery shop, purchase one or two extra shelf-stable, ready-to-eat canned goods (along with a manual can opener), such as non-condensed soup, canned chicken breast and tuna, pasta meals, and vegetables, so you can build your supply without adding too much to your grocery bill each week. Unlike frozen foods, canned foods won’t spoil during a long power outage. Avoid dry foods like pasta and rice; they’re shelf-stable, but cooking them requires water and energy, which might be in short supply during a storm.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends stocking at least a three-day supply of adequate nutrition, water and prescription medications for each family member, including pets and livestock, as it might take up to three days to restore electricity and clear roads of ice, fallen trees and other hazards. In recent U.S. natural disasters, actual restoration of electricity, water and transportation has taken much longer in some instances.
Make sure you continually update your food supply. Canned foods keep for months, but oxygen inside the packaging causes food quality to decline over time.
To get through disruptive storms or other emergencies, also store the following items:
- water (1 gallon per person per day for drinking and hygiene)
- alternate heat source and fuel, such as a hefty supply of firewood for the fireplace or wood-burning stove
- flashlights with extra batteries
- NOAA weather radio
- entertainment: There's a lot of idle time when you’re house-bound. Books, cards, board games and energy-releasing activities (besides hauling firewood) can help keep cabin fever at bay.
During the Storm
Use foods from the refrigerator first, then frozen foods, then canned foods. If the oven isn’t working, use coals from the fireplace to heat food, or cook outside on your grill. Don’t bring the grill indoors as this can cause fatal carbon monoxide to build up inside your home.
It’s prudent to store a few supplies in your car in case you are on the road when bad weather hits. Collect the following items for your vehicle's emergency-supply kit:
- ready-to-eat foods
- bottled water
- candles and matches
- hand-crank flashlight and radio
- warm clothes and boots
- heavy work gloves
It’s also a good idea to have a similar kit in your workplace in case conditions prevent you from getting home.
For more information on emergency preparedness, download UGA Extension's Home Emergency Preparedness Handbook or visit Ready.gov.