It’s the first snow of the season in Dallas today, which means it’s perfect timing to talk about winter safety.
When the ice storm known as Snowmaggeddon (or the Snowpocalypse) hit Texas last February, many across Texas experienced hardship and trauma as the power grid collapsed. My power went out for days on end; my pipes exploded; my car was iced in – just like everybody else. But my Snowpocalypse story is not tragic or sensational. Some might say I was lucky, but mostly I was just prepared. Because I go camping every so often, I had plenty of supplies at the ready: flashlights, extra blankets, boots, gloves and a warm jacket. As we discovered last year, these are items that many Texans had not thought to procure.
I am by no means victim-blaming. I can only imagine how scary it must have been to face extreme cold without proper supplies. I’m writing this post because it’s important to learn from our mistakes and prepare for the next disaster. Because it’s almost certain that there will be a next one.
What lessons should we have learned from this event? Here is my opinion.
Listen up. Outsiders may be surprised to know that we had a week’s advance notice to prepare for this ice storm. Everyone was talking about it, and everyone knew it was going to be bad. My cell phone gave me multiple storm warnings. The radio stations were repetitively and incessantly warning people to stock up on supplies. The grocery stores were packed with people. Businesses closed and sent people home early long before the snow began to fall. And yet, some people (including several of my friends) chose to ignore the warnings.
The first day of the storm, my neighbor begged me to share my food with him because he had been too lazy to go to the grocery store. Don’t be like my neighbor! If there is a storm warning, take it seriously.
Stock up on basic survival gear. Below is my list of must-haves. Luckily almost everything on this list costs under $20. Please buy these in advance. You cannot rely on 1-day delivery if the roads are iced over!
- Headlamp(s). If battery-powered, keep extra batteries on hand. In my opinion headlamps are preferable to flashlights because you’re free to use both hands.
- A portable charging station. Keep it charged and within easy reach. You can use it to charge your phone, flashlight, or whatever else runs out of battery.
- Food that doesn’t need to be cooked. Think apples, celery, tuna, jerkey, canned soup, bags of nuts, granola. Don’t rely on raw meat and dried rice!
- Extra blankets, socks, sweaters, jackets, etc. to layer up if it gets cold
- Water bottles or water cube. One of the biggest issues in Snowmaggeddon was that the pipes burst, due to freezing and thawing. Then on top of having no heat or electricity, people also had no water. If you know the tempare will fall below freezing, fill all your spare containers with water. You never know when you might need them.
- A camping stove and propane. These are small and easy to use, and do not rely on electricity. During the storm, Dallas’s waste water management facilities lost power and we went on boil notice. If the power is out, you can use the camping stove to boil water. Important note: you need to boil water for 2 full minutes before it is safe to drink.
- Over-shoe traction cleats. These removable contraptions grip the outside of any pair of shoes or boots. They’re inexpensive and prevent you from slipping on the ice.
- Ice scraper. This is for anyone who might be driving in the cold, an essential for clearing your windshields. You should also keep jumper cables in the car, as cold weather can mess with your battery.
Stay Calm and Think. I listened to a Texan woman tell the New York Times that her children starved because her refrigerator ran out of electricity. Think about that for a second. It was below freezing outside and she couldn’t think of a way to keep her food cold? All she had to do was put it outside on her balcony or front porch.
If you’re the kind of person who panics easily, do what it takes to keep yourself calm. Take deep breaths or do jumping jacks to release nervous energy. Go on a walk outside with your ice cleats and try to see the beauty. Don’t underestimate the power of exercise! It not only keeps you warm, it also regulates emotions and stimulates blood flow to the brain.
State problems out loud and brainstorm potential solutions in writing. If you don’t know anything about surviving in cold weather, it may be worthwhile to take a course or do some research ahead of time. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to avoid panicking and make smart decisions.
Ask for Help if You Need It. In situations like these, we are all on the same side. I happily provided food and water to my neighbors in need, and am sure they would have done the same for me. Warming stations were erected all over the state, and those with power took in friends and relatives who were without. The hotel across the street from me had a generator and was offering free water, charging stations and WiFi to anyone who needed it, regardless of whether they were hotel guests. People are there to help you, but you have to let them.
All photos my own. I do not get paid by any of the linked products, nor do I endorse any specific company. I just want you guys to be prepared! Good luck out there this winter!