Preparing for Storms

Preparing for storms at the grocery store:

When a storm is predicted by the weather forcasters, if I find myself at the grocery store, there are five required items to place on the conveyor belt: (1) toilet paper (2) diapers (3) milk (4) bread and (5) dog or cat food.

crowd waiting in line at local supermarket before storm
crowd waiting in line at local supermarket before storm

I have a friend that has researched this list extensively and he has a FAQ page which I copied below to explain these requirements:
1. What if I don’t have a dog or cat? A: Buy pet food anyway. See next question.
2. What if I don’t have a baby? A: Buy diapers anyway. See next question.
3. Why do I have to buy these items if I don’t ordinarily need them? A: Take five items, mix together. This makes a paper mache recipe that you can use to amuse the family with or without power when you arrive home. Normal paper mache recipes often require binders such as glue or starch, and paint or tint for coloring, but there isn’t enough of these items in a normal grocery store for every shopper to access, so the list has been shortened to the very basic ingredients for most consumers. The diapers provide strength to the resulting mix and should be cut into strips or small pieces to mix well. The dog or cat food is the colorant. Place paper mache mix over plastic cook or storage ware as molds. Also remember that this final mix might grow mold so should be thrown out soon after the evening or day of festivities at home. Plastic cook or storage ware can be recycled in dish washer.

For those of you who were actually going to follow my directions, please DON’T. This is a joke! Nothing more but musings about the items most often seen bought just before a storm. In fact, I have quite a stage voice and have been known to say when I place my items on the conveyor belt behind someone else, “DH, please go get us some diapers! Even though we have no babies, this is a required purchase for storm preparations! Hurry!” It usually gets a laugh or two….

Seriously, Folks, there is a good blog that provides some advice on preparing for winter for anyone that I am reprinting below with some edits (because they have not blogged in many months and may not still be maintaining the site). It bears reading and taking notes:


By Konrad Kaletsch Monday, January 24 2011 at 04:02PM
Surviving Snow & Ice: PREPARING FOR WINTER


Overcoming the inconveniences of snow requires preparation. This series of posts provides checklists to help you create and prepare for a better winter experience. The posts in this series are: Universal Design for Winter, Preparing For Winter, Snow Removal, Getting Around, and, New Home Construction.

Preparing For Winter

No matter how well we design for our survival (and comfort), nature can always out-do us, reminding us to be humble, thoughtful … and prepared.

This checklist will work best for you if you begin with an evaluation of what you can do, what you can’t do, what’s unique to your situation, what you will need and how you will get it. Do you get over 100 inches of snow every year or snow every five years? Can you shovel and ready your car for travel? Will you need specialized life-saving equipment and how soon? Are you in an area where winter hazards will be cleaned up fast and return to normal promptly?

This list is organized by topic, not region, urgency or chronological order; those would be local and personal conditions you know better than I. As you read through, ponder the degree to which each concern applies. A little effort now saves a lot of effort later at those times when nature gets a bit feisty and reminds us who’s the boss.

Personal Conditions That Pose Added Challenges

  • Diminished vision
  • Diminished physical strength
  • Diminished coordination
  • Side effects of medications (drowsy, dizzy)
  • Poor circulation (more vulnerable to cold)
  • Dependency on assistive technology.

General Preparation And Supplies

  • Stock up on non-perishable food – high calorie is more efficient
  • Stock up on prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  • Stock-up on water; if an emergency is expected, fill up containers and bathtubs.
  • A first-aid emergency kit; supplement it with any special items you need.
  • Batteries (special ones for health gadgets too)
  • Battery powered radio; hand crank radio is good too.
  • Means for communication: many phones today often require electricity as well as a land-line connection to work; make sure you have an old, no-frills phone that needs no more than a basic phone land-line connection. Cell phones will work if you can keep them powered and if the service isn’t congested.
  • Blankets – plenty
  • Matches and/or lighters
  • Snow shovel, snow pusher, ice chipper or snow blower – smaller shovels lift less weight but are easier on the back
  • Needed supplies in good working order – and they might have to last for 7-14 days.
  • I wish I didn’t have to add this, but in some cases this is important: have personal protection, something with which you can defend your home and protect your family should that become necessary.
  • Supplies for pet needs too.


  • Shoes: good soles for traction (or add-on traction devices), good insulation for warmth, water repellency to stay dry. If you have a dog who needs walks, good footwear is critical.
  • Layers: Loose fitting helps maintain movability. Layers are easily added and removed to adapt to temp and activity. Under layers should wick moisture off skin and out to outer layers where it can evaporate – no cotton if you will be sweating!
  • Hat – yes, much of your body heat goes out through your head.
  • Bright visible colors – easier to be seen.

    Orange Cosmic Coat
    Orange Cosmic Coat


  • Stock up on their food, supplies such as kitty litter, etc., and medications too.
  • If your dog needs walks, have shoes with awesome traction and warm clothes (see clothing section for other recommendations)
  • If your pet needs booties (for warmth or the salt) or a cover, get them.

    Road salt toxic to your pets

Staying Connected & Informed

  • Set up channels of communication: family, buddies, neighbors, caregivers, etc; have people calling to check in.
  • For critical health conditions, register with your local emergency management office.
  • Have an emergency bad weather plan; these are thoughtfully created emergency plans shared among caregivers, family and neighbors so people can find you in an emergency.
  • If you have electrically powered medical devices, call your utility provider and let them know; sometimes they will work to restore power sooner for you, or provide a temporary generator or large battery. [See our posts about why we installed a stand by generator, how we installed one, and the steps you need to follow if you install a whole house generator.]

Winter Supplies For The Home

  • Stock up on ice-melters: salt (rough on plants, concrete and animal feet), non-salt deicers (magnesium chloride and calcium chloride – less harsh on plants and concrete, works at lower temps.)
  • For traction, stock up on: sand, ashes (easy if you have a fire place) and even alfalfa meal (your lawn will like you)
  • Have an ergonomic snow shovel and/or snow pusher. [We have a landscaper we call when the weather gets really bad to plow our driveway, clean our walks, and other paths to the back door as well as the front. We have called him in advance to request that we be put on his “automatic” list of people/homes he will care for when the weather warrants it.]

Home Preparations For The Winter

  • Step treads and walkways or ramps can have electrically heated mats placed in winter months diminishing the need for shoveling and chipping.
  • Clean gutters so they work and drain melt-off rather than having ice form and fall off the roof.
  • If your roof is prone to ice build-up, have heat tape installed.
  • Add low-profile non-skid mats in entrance ways that become slippery when wet (also handy to have mopping supplies nearby).
  • If you plow or snow blow, tune-up and test equipment.
  • Remove moss and mold build-up on walkways and stairs (slippery when wet). Wood can become slippery, if so, add grit or non-skid tape.
  • Inspect and tune-up your heating systems (furnace and hot water).
  • Inspect and service your alternate heat sources: a generator (and fuel), a propane stove, a fireplace with a clean chimney (and plenty of firewood – don’t forget matches or a lighter).
  • Remove potentially dangerous tree limbs and trees (trimming)
  • Put up plow markers to protect plants and landscaping features from being damaged; add burlap coverings over plants or wrap them with twine to prevent snow from bending them permanently out of shape.
  • Keep heating fuel topped off – don’t let it get low. [Again, ask your fuel supplier to automatically fill your heating fuel container on a regular or routine basis.]
  • Know how to open an electric garage door if power fails.
  • If people will make house calls (medical personal or food delivery), what might prevent them and how can that be resolved?

    crampons for snow and ice
    crampons for snow and ice

Home Improvements

  • If you don’t have exterior stair and walkway railings, add them.
  • Add exterior lighting; have automated lighting (motion sensors) on walkways, stairs and the driveway.
  • If your roof is prone to ice build-up, have roof venting improved; this is a better solution than adding heat tape.
  • Create smooth walkways that are easier to shovel or snow blow (not slippery, walkways must have some grit for traction).
  • Exterior stairs can be built without risers making them easier to remove snow and drain water that might otherwise freeze; check with local building codes first!

Car Preparations For The Winter

Driving in snow is always a challenge

  • Tune-up
  • Antifreeze and radiator check
  • Battery in good condition
  • Snow tires, maybe studded, or chains
  • New wiper blades
  • Working heater and defrosters
  • Snow/ice removal equipment in car – maybe an old set of gloves too
  • Emergency supplies: blanket, food such as power bars, flashlight, bright colored hazard flag.
    space blanket
    space blanket
  • Your own jumper cables and a tow rope will get you out of trouble a bit faster (and help someone else in need).

Winter Driving Skills

  • Don’t drive in bad conditions if you don’t have to; ‘nuff said. There is no vehicle that performs better in snows or ice – all are prone to loosing traction more easily. Also, it might be the other car that had no winterizing and slams into you. If you must drive, consider the following:
  • Slow starts, slow stops: maintain traction.
  • Reduce speed; a good guideline is being able to come to a stop in half the visible distance (if you can see 100 feet, be traveling slow enough that you can stop in 50 feet).
  • Be awake and alert – not tired or medicated. Sounds obvious, but, emergency situations often diminish sound judgment.
  • Remove snow and ice off car – not a peephole, but all the way around.
  • Know the roadway trouble spots: hills (especially with stops), bridges that freeze sooner, snow drifts from wind, roads that get plowed last (avoid) and those that get plowed first (stay on these).
  • Know your destination and what to expect. A popular mall will likely be cleaned up faster than a small store parking lot.
  • Know your town’s snow policies: how soon are they responsible for restoring roadways and public transportation.
  • Know alternate routes should the usual route be blocked or hazardous.
  • If you need specialized treatment, know how to get there.
  • Stay on main roads and snow routes – plowed first and best.
  • Avoid night driving – black ice hazards, harder to be rescued, and colder.
  • If stuck, stay in car. Use a flag or flare to attract help.
  • Bring your cell phone, even if a call doesn’t work, newer models have trackable GPS signals.
  • 4WD or AWD: No, this doesn’t mean you can still do 70 MPH. It does mean you won’t get stuck as easily.
  • Regions accustomed to annual snowfall will remove it better than regions that don’t have; drivers will be better too due to experience with snow.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.

Wheelchairs, Scooters, Canes & Walkers

  • Modify canes and walkers by adding ice & snow spikes.
  • Modify wheelchair wheels with “winter” tires, typically modified knobby bike tires or “chains,” an add-on to the existing tire that gives it some bite.
  • Additional wheelchair considerations:
  1. Be aware the knobby tires are harder to wheel and more likely to track snow and mud into a building.
  2. Steeper ramps become almost impossible even with a thin layer of snow.
  3. Wheeling through snow requires considerable strength.
  4. Wheeling through snow is rough on wheelchairs; consider stocking extra parts and being able to make minor repairs yourself.
  • Scooters rely on electric; if a power loss is possible, have an extra charged battery. Snow is rough on scooters; have needed extra replacement parts and be able to handle minor repairs. Finally, have a wheelchair back-up.

Preparing for Storms — Pre-Storm Preparations

A word of caution: This section is at the end because you are already prepared, right? However, if you find yourself chasing down these loose ends, be reasonably sure that others are too and supplies and services will be less and less available. So, be prepared and handle as much as you can as soon as you can.

  • Stock up on non-perishable food (pet food too).
  • Stock up on water; also store it in containers and bath tubs.
  • Have at least 3 days of needed medications.
  • Check your emergency plan and buddy system – connect with each other before an event to confirm plans.
  • Back-up computer data.
  • Fill up gas tank.
  • Check heating fuel; order a special delivery if it is low.
  • Getting out strategy: snow removal, car, road conditions: how will you get out if you must; or, how will others get to you?

[And I add a few other thoughts: remember that if your power is out, it is likely that the gas station’s power might be out too. Call first. Also check with the traffic, road division, county, about lights and other traffic signals that might not be functioning if you do have to go out during a power outage.]

Do you have additional advice for a weather emergency? Do you do anything special that you would like to pass along to others?

Get more great photos, tips and tours by subscribing to my blog! Just leave your email address below: (I will not share it or use it other than to transmit our latest posts. Thanks so much!)

6 thoughts on “Preparing for Storms”

  1. Shenandoah, These are great suggestions for winter preparation, especially thinking about how to make winter safer for those of us who are aging in place.
    Your photo of all the folks in line at the supermarket reminded me of the year I came home to Maine for my “spring break” in March just in time for a big nor’easter. When I woke up at 5 a.m. the day the storm was expected to arrive, I decided to get up right away and head into town to the supermarket to stock up on a few needed items. As I drove to the store at 5:30 a.m., I was feeling pretty smug at being up and out so early to beat the crowds. Imagine my surprise when I got to the store and had trouble finding an empty parking space! Apparently, going early to beat the crowds was not an original idea.

    1. Jean,
      Hope your Thanksgiving was great! Sorry to be late in responding, but we were out of town for Thanksgiving week. Yes, I can’t imagine finding a full grocery store at 5:30 am! Funny and fun — thanks for checking in and saying hi!

    2. Two suggestions for dealing with winter power outages. Purchase a Coleman L
      Walmart, camping section. Screws into 20lb gas grill tank. Has 3 outlets the top fits a propane lantern well. Get a propane stove Coleman two burner. Electronic ignition or matches. Place set up in kitchen if power goes out. You can see and cook for days on 20lb of propane. Yes it does make Carbon monoxide, but you are not going to run it for hours. Do not run when you are sleeping. A Buddy Heater with ceramic plates also works well. We used a small 9,000 BTU unit to heat three rooms during an ice storm outage for 3days. Very little if any CO Checked on my 90year old grandmother and 25yo handicapped daughter who were in bedrooms off bathroom where heater was. No odor, no headaches, no sign of illness. Heater was in bathroom We kept three rooms, bathroom large, about 65F for 21/2 days on one 20lb propane tank. Would not sleep in same room with heater and door shut.
      Large room, numerous window. Everyone was fine, and warm. Believe the ceramic plates result in more complete combustion than open flames.

      1. Thanks for your suggestions! For those of us with very tightly sealed houses, it might be best to crack a window, rather than trust that carbon monoxide is being safely vented away with closed windows and doors. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the cause of many deaths during power outages. And some of us don’t suffer headaches or smell the propane or butane burning, especially if we fall asleep. That’s why heater manufacturers warn against using them indoors or to crack a window or door. I had a friend that was poisoned even when the generator was run outdoors because it was near a window with a steep overhang that trapped the fumes and vented them indoors through the window!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>