If you’re in the storm…

Just putting a few things out there for people who are in the path of the Big OMGSCARY Winter StormTM, from my own experience having lived outdoors through a few hardcore winters. First, charge all your devices now. Second, if you have a wood stove or fireplace, bring some wood inside the house, and chop a bit of it up into kindling. Wood that has been split small and kept warm is much easier to light than cold wood, especially cold wood with snow on it. Third, put some water in metal pots on the counter- in a pinch, if the water freezes to ice, a metal pot can be put directly on a heat source, even a flame (bonus if no plastic or wooden handles!) Fourth, if there’s anything you might need in an attic or a basement storage space (or an outbuilding) go get it now while you don’t need a flashlight. This is mostly about extra blankets, boots, batteries if you like listening to the radio, and those books you’ve been meaning to read (I fully expect the number of people in the affected area to have finished Thomas Piketty to double in the next few days). If you have municipal water, you will want to turn on the faucets a small amount so the pipes won’t freeze, but you can wait to do this until after the heat goes out, if in fact that happens.

(Your furnace and your oven, even if they’re gas or woodburners, probably use electricity to regulate the thermostat or feed fuel and won’t work if the power goes out. Your hot water heater definitely won’t work. Municipal water pressure probably has backup power but if you have a well-pump with a diaphragm tank your water pressure will only work for a little while, so don’t waste it!)

Now, that being done, go outside and make snow angels. Make a snowman. Challenge your neighbors to a snowball fight. Bake cookies (assuming of course that the oven still works) or hard-sugar candy (mix equal parts sugar and water, boil for a while, then drizzle over snow- bonus if you add flavorings). Bring some to the old lady upstairs, or down the street (and make sure she’s got enough blankets too).

And finally, something that went out to friends in an email last summer but never got moved to the blog. Based on my experience in fire training, and probably completely irrelevant to the Big OMGSCARY Winter StormTM, but worth putting on the record:

When the government says evacuate before disaster strikes, go- they are not kidding around. The cost of shutting down even a small suburb, let alone defending against lawsuits over the decision to do so, is insanely high, well beyond the budget of any municipality. The guy who makes the decision has already endured days of lawyers and bean counters arguing that shelter-in-place or watchful-waiting are acceptable and far less costly alternatives, and the military has probably weighed in saying that an evacuation order would cause “panic.” If they say evacuate anyway, its not a joke. The first rule of any disaster, from a hurricane to a famine, is that the first one to leave is the last one alive.

Stay warm and have fun.

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