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Winter Storms

With the recent snowstorms that have been sweeping across the United States it is wise for each of us to think about our own preparation for a major storm. The following suggestions are some things you can do to prepare for a storm and how to stay safe during and after a storm.

Be Prepared for a Storm:

Before Mother Nature strikes, be prepared for a major storm. Everyone should have some basic supplies on hand to survive for at least three days in the event of an extended power outage. Following are suggested items to keep on hand and easily accessible, although everyone should consider the unique needs of their own family in order to create an emergency kit that will provide for your needs.

  • Water: at least one gallon per person, per day for drinking and sanitation. If you have pets, have extra available.
  • Food: at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, focusing on items that can be eaten without being cooked. Don’t forget a hand-operated can opener.
  • Flashlights and a supply of fresh batteries.
  • A corded telephone. Cordless phones will not work when your power is out.
  • A battery-powered radio and/or television. Midwest Energy Cooperative works with regional news media to provide regular updates about major power outages.
  • A battery-powered or wind-up clock.
  • A first-aid kit and hand sanitizer. Be sure to fill prescriptions and have any needed medical supplies on hand.
  • Extra blankets.
  • Candles and matches.
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
  • Rock salt or other product to melt ice on walkways.
  • Sand to improve traction.
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
  • Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Adequate clothing to keep you warm.

Safety Tips During and After a Storm:

  • Pay attention to Winter Storm Watches and Warnings, Winter Weather Advisories and Travel Restrictions. See additional resources below for definitions of the various warnings.
  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Walk carefully on snowy or icy walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive, travel in the day, don’t travel alone and keep others informed of your schedule.
  • To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so that water drips from the tap. Know how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.
  • If your pipes freeze, remove any insulation of layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold.
  • Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home set to a temperature no lower than 55°F.
  • Stay away from downed power lines. A power line does not need to be sparking or arcing to be energized. Lines that appear to be “dead” can become energized as crews work to restore power. Assume all low and downed lines are energized and dangerous.
  • Never drive over a downed line as snagging a line could pull down a pole or other equipment and cause other hazards.
  • Be careful approaching intersections where traffic lights may be out.

What to Do If the Power is Out:

  • If you plan to use a generator, know how to operate it safely.
  • Turn off all appliances, including your furnace, air conditioner, water heater and water pump so you avoid a circuit overload when power is restored. Leave on one lamp to know when power has been restored.
  • Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed. Food will stay frozen for 36 to 48 hours in a fully loaded freezer if you keep the door closed. A half-full freezer will generally keep food frozen for 24 hours. If it looks like the power outage will be prolonged, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
  • Keep candles away from furniture, curtains or any other flammable material. Never leave children alone in a room with a burning candle or open flame.
  • Never use gas stoves, charcoal or briquette grills or camp stoves to cook or heat within your home.
  • Make sure cell phones and laptop computers are charged ahead of time. Consider using them only to update family and friends on conditions, and to check the weather or road conditions.
  • If you can’t stay warm go to a designated public shelter. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 65203).

Additional Resources:

Information for this article was compiled from Midwest Energy Cooperative (http://www.teammidwest.com/your-home/storm-outage-information/) and Ready.gov (http://www.ready.gov/winter-weather).

Ryan H. Law, M.S., CFP®, AFC®
Personal Financial Planning Department
Office for Financial Success Director
University of Missouri Center on Economic Education Director
162 Stanley Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
573.882.9211 (office)
573.884.8389 (fax)