A huge winter storm is making its way across the country this week, bringing with it heavy snow, high winds, and single-digit temperatures as far south as Louisiana. Conditions are expected to significantly affect holiday travel, and similar storms have recently challenged power grids and other infrastructure even in states that are accustomed to winter weather. Remember how an arctic freeze went for Texas (not accustomed to winter weather) in February 2021?
So—especially if you live in a place that doesn’t often see extreme cold, ice, or snow—you should check the forecast and prepare your home and belongings accordingly. Here are the precautions to consider ahead of any winter storm.
Bring your pets and plants inside
This should be a no-brainer, but anything living is unlikely to weather an arctic freeze well. If you have outdoor pets, livestock, or plants, bring them inside or make arrangements for shelter until temperatures rise. For cold-sensitive plants in the ground, cover them at the very least, though note that high winds may make covers less effective, and you’ll definitely want to tie down or secure blankets, cloth, or fabric.
Clear your gutters
This should have been on your fall home maintenance task list, but now is as good a time as any to remove leaves and debris from your gutters to reduce the risk of ice dams, which can prevent melting snow from draining off your roof and result in water damage.
Protect your pipes
Insulating and/or draining your home’s pipes isn’t a guarantee against bursting, but it can certainly reduce the risk. You’ll have to turn off the main water valve to your house and then flush the toilets and run faucets until they are empty (here’s a very thorough how-to). Don’t forget to first fill bathtubs, coolers, and jugs so you have water to drink, flush, etc.
If you can’t or don’t want to turn off the water completely for the duration of the storm, at least protect pipes with insulation (pool noodles are an alternative to actual insulation) and open faucets to drip cold water. Leave sink cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathroom open so pipes are exposed to warm air. You should also put away hoses, winterize pools and water fixtures, and turn off any outdoor water sources.
Seal or insulate your windows and doors
Heat can easily be lost (and cold air let in) via window and door gaps. Add weather stripping for insulation, or stuff towels to prevent drafts. Keep curtains and blinds closed.
Charge all your electronics to full battery
If there’s any risk of losing power, make sure all devices stay fully charged. It’s also a good practice to have extra portable battery packs (also fully charged) in case power is out for a while, as well as flashlights with extra batteries and/or a solar camping lantern. If you don’t have these supplies in time for this storm, add them to your emergency kit for the next one.
And, a reminder: don’t use your oven or stove for heat, and be sure to place portable generators outside away from any structures. And make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working.