This time, they’re forecasting power outages to be widespread, as the heavy, wet snow has frozen on the evergreen boughs, making them both extremely heavy and brittle. Of course, living off grid, that doesn’t affect us any. But we do worry about folks who depend on the grid for their power. As this storm and its Arctic cold, extends all the way down to the Gulf, I hope folks have prepared as well as they can in advance. Heat is always an essential, especially when the temperatures dive down to -31 degrees, like they did for us last night. We have both a living room wood stove and a wood kitchen range. So, all we have to do is stack wood up in the wood box and wheelbarrows, where it will be handy yet safe. Unfortunately, most folks don’t have a wood stove and have to depend on a furnace, with a blower, to keep them warm. Yep, many furnaces will work but are designed to use electricity to blow the heat through the house. Some also will not heat without electricity. Here are a couple of options. Yes, you can use a generator to plug an extension cord into, to power your furnace. But many people don’t have one and the stores quickly sell out when a possible emergency is headed for them. Another way to provide power to that furnace is to pick up an inexpensive inverter that plugs into your power outlets (they used to be called cigarette lighter plugs) in your car. With the vehicle filled with gas ahead of the storm, this inverter should be able to not only power your furnace blower for quite a while, especially if you’ve been provident enough to buy a few five-gallon cans of gas. This will also work to power a fridge or freezer. However, you can NOT run everything, all the time on a cheap inverter which plugs into your car. The inverter is not made for this. But you can run these things alternately, from time to time, keeping cold things cold and your family warm.

We feel so fortunate to have two wood stoves in our home. Our dog, Hondo, thinks so, too.

Remember, when cold is coming, if you must, seal off most all rooms and sleep in the ones that are easily heated, even if it means pulling mattresses off beds and laying them on the floor. Doubling up people in a bed also helps keep everyone cozy when it’s colder than you’re used to in the house. Sleeping in sweatpants and layered tops, including a sweatshirt or sweater, does wonders. (Having a few good sleeping bags keeps us toasty, even when winter camping in our unheated pickup’s topper!)

Having a few good, rechargeable flashlights or other battery-operated lights sure take the pain out of a power outage. My son, Bill, used his big, DeWalt battery-operated work light during their recent power outage. It made enough light that his wife, Kelly Jo, when coming home, thought the power was back on! We have two DeWalt battery-operated flashlights, ourselves. It’s an easy job to keep them fully charged and the batteries last for days if used reasonably.

Water is another concern. It’s always a great idea to have several gallons of drinking water and a few five-gallon plastic jugs of potable water stored in the pantry or heated garage. (Don’t let them freeze if the heat goes out!) I also advise filling your bathtub, hot tub, or other big water storage containers, in the house, ahead of the storm, to use in the event your power goes out and you don’t have water coming out your faucet or into your toilet. Dipping water out of the bathtub will flush a toilet or wash dishes, or people! Also, use the axiom, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow. Brown, flush it down,” to save water. (This means you can pee several times, putting the toilet paper into a bag to dispose of later, only flushing when there’s poop in the toilet.) If there’s an emergency where you don’t have water stored, you can line the toilet with two plastic garbage bags, place a few handfuls of wood shavings or kitty litter in the bottom, then use that for poop and another unlined bucket for pee. As before, put the used toilet paper into a bag for later disposal.

Food is nice. Having lots of food available that doesn’t require long heating or baking is perfect. Our pantry is stuffed with lots of good eats, available at a minute’s notice. If you don’t have such a pantry, consider buying foods which don’t require cooking or much heating, ahead of the storm. This includes having plenty of extra baby food, formula, diapers, etc., as the stores may be closed or the roads impassable. Think ahead. Don’t drive if at all possible. More people are injured or made miserable by driving in a bad storm … often just because they want to go somewhere. Stay home!

In addition to all our canned goods, we also have lots of ingredients for simple meals in the pantry.

The storm may not be as bad as they say, but who wants to find out the hard way that they’re in a world of hurt because they did nothing to prepare for it? — Jackie

40 COMMENTS

  1. One of the writers for Backwoods Home talks of storing up the battery power of the solar generated lights people put along driveways by charging them up with lots of sun power and then taking the batter out of the light and storing them until they are needed. Yes it is a chore and using lots of solar lights but you buy when they are on sale. — Just an idea to think of for next summer! Love to all.

  2. Unfortunately, most power outages come when it’s cloudy and our solar panels don’t collect too much juice, so we have to be quite careful or run our generator. In an emergency, poultry and livestock can eat snow. That’s not ideal but will give them enough moisture to get by in good shape.

  3. Jackie, one thing to help off set very cold temperature is hats. Bandanas or scarfs on the head, or even a shit tied around the top of your head will help. Who cares if you are warm. Central Texas has gotten very cold with snow from sprinkles to to 13 inches before. My mother’s side was all from there and I grew up there. When you are very cold with an all electric place shove your bed against the wall away from the outside wall and windows. Set up crackers and water by the bed. Put sheets around the base of the bed like a bed skirt to slow drafts. Pile in bed with family and pets. Close curtains, towels can be spread across the bed to act as a blanket. If you have safety pins or sew overlap them a bit and fasten in place with pins or tacking stitches. Put a blanket over them to stay warm. Wear years of clothes. I’ve camped in the winter, one time in a blizzard and layers of clothes a great sleeping bag with a pad made it comfortable for me. Read, nibbled snacks drank sips of water and waited the storm out. Always included a book I meant to read but hadn’t gotten to in paperback. Always carried snack food of homemade trail mix or something like that. Water is very important in cold temperatures because you can get dehydrated in the cold too.

      • Me and Auto correct do not get along. Plus when my phone upgraded itself the input is all messed up. Sorry about the typos. I have used a SHIRT, flannel ones on my head. Not the other … stuff. My great Grandma had a piece of flannel she put over her head cold nights. I was a bit worn bit she said it made a difference. I have to agree.

  4. As always, you’re thinking of others’ well-being and giving the advice for us to accomplish that. New news to me about the inverter, as well!
    Interesting tidbit is the Iowa weather person told us that we have now had 48 hours of below 0 temps. It actually is newsworthy for this state, and I can attest to the the travel conditions being poor due to blowing snow because we live in farmland and whooosh! The 3″ snow we got the other day is rearranged now. Having grown up in northern MN, I have enjoyed the old feelings of nestling-in during big blizzards, knowing we are safe and fine, and am thankful it is true today too. To be honest, this is not bad compared to ‘back then’, but is unusual for here, and this decade.
    With fondest memories and hugs to you both, my wish for you–
    Merry, blessed, wonderful Christmas

  5. Hello Miss Jackie and Will…last weekend in my part of western central Maine we had about 26 inches of rather heavy snow. Got that cleaned up in time for this storm. It did rain a lot and we did have some wind but it seems we have missed most of the mess. My wood stove has kept up with the drop in temps. I did close off one smaller room to help the stove but in hindsight I don’t think I would have needed to. No power losses in my area. We got lucky.
    Merry Christmas to everyone!! Pyro

  6. A number of years back we had an ice storm and no power for nearly a week. People were bemoaning loss of the contents of their freezers WHEN IT WAS ZERO OUTSIDE. Duh, they couldn’t think outside the box.

    Currently it’s warmer in my deepfreeze than it is outside.

    I give thanks for my warm house, the generator that will come on should the power go out and my preps. Of course, the battery on the car is dead as a doornail, but with the blizzard I have no desire to go anywhere anyway.

  7. Hi Jackie-great advice on preparing for stormy weather! I’m blessed to have a wood stove with a surface large enough to cook a pot of soup etc. Lots of water on hand and plenty of food. The woodshed is full and I have a large wood box in the house with more stacked on the porch for easy access. Our weather is switching from -10C to -1C and now pellets of ice/rain. Treacherous for walking and driving so staying home where it’s warm is the best idea. Wishing all a very Merry Christmas!

  8. The storm has all but passed through now about all that is left is the cold. It was plus four this morning but we did see in the minus twenty’s. With wind chills it got in the minus forty’s. While we don’t have a wood stove we do have a big generator and plenty of gas.

    Staying warm in Wray Colorado !

    • I’m glad you’re having a toasty Christmas Reg!! It looks like our cold snap is on the way out. Thank God! We had wind gusts into the 40-50 mph, with sub-zero weather. Not nice.

  9. We have two wood stoves and a shed full of wood also an oil drip stove that we run below -20. Hasn’t gotten that warm in four days with a low of -40! If you have a small pop tent you can put it on the big bed or floor and share warmth that way. This sort or mimics the “shut beds or bed cabinets” in Icelandic sagas. Some one pointed out in a blog I read that there could be large numbers of fatalities around the border from the cold. When I was a kid on Long Island, N.Y. There were a couple who died of exposure on the bay. It was May and it got down to+40’s. They were becalmed in a small sail boat in swim suits, no secondary
    means of propulsion very few people on the water. Long before cell phones. A clam digger found them when he went out to work in the morning. Could happen to people in Central American clothing when they are calling for temps in the single didgits in some places!

    • We haven’t seen -40 yet, but I’m sure it’s coming. It was the wind that was bad, here, up to 50 mph gusts. Good idea about the pop tent. I was thinking the same thing, looking at ice fishing pop-ups. They’re even insulated. Yep, folks sure don’t dress for the weather. It was zero a week ago and I saw a guy wearing shorts at WalMart! Yes, the store was warm and his car has a heater. But what if it slid into a snowbank, had a flat tire or ??? Not smart.

      • I live in 9b, but we had freezing overnight temps all weekend. Nevertheless, I mostly wore shorts and sandles as my car is heated. However, I’m from MT, so, if you look on the passenger seat, you will find long johns, a tank top, a turtleneck, a sweatshirt, a hoodie, a hat, a windbreaker, and a winter coat. Not to mention sweat pants, socks, shoes, gloves, and a scarf.

  10. We have a generator (my vote was whole house but my vote did not win). Had an electrician set it up so we can run part of the house off the generator (can/can’t based on generator size). We could live without A/C but the generator will run the well, furnace, frig, freezer – what I consider important. I’ll still fill a few jugs of water however as we typically wait for a bit before firing up the generator. Not all outages are long.
    Husband did call the elderly neighbors to see if they needed anything from town as he made a trip this morning (they did not).
    Both kids were also ready for the storm before it hit. We’ve done our job in that area.

  11. Was in the 40’s here when I got up about 4:30 a.m. this morning. By 9 a.m. was in the 20’s, then down to about 13 all day with a very cold north wind. We heat with wood. The heat stove wasn’t cutting it, so I lit my 1920’s vintage Red Mountain cook stove. Still cold. Can feel the wind coming through the insulated north wall (not all walls are insulated!). Shut off the water, drained the water lines and the pump. Have 3 55 gallon barrels outside full of utility water plus 1200 gallons in the big tank. Also, several gallon jugs of drinking water. Port a pot serviced this week already. Generators ready to pull out if needed. Rechargeable flashlights charged up. Plenty of food for animals and critters. Hope we don’t have a repeat of February 2021 (no power for 48 hours at -4). This is brutal for N. Central TX. Second big coast to coast storm thus far this year……. and folks are predicting a “mild winter”! HA!!!!

    • So much for the predictions, huh??? I’ve been running my wood kitchen range since the weather turned cold. Boy, does that ever help keep us toasty! Sounds like you prepared well. Good job, Tami!!

  12. Thank you Jackie for these life saving tips. Here, in North Georgia, we might get a little snow but the temperatures and wind chill are the big problems. The winds are going to bring down trees and power outages. We have gas logs, cooktop and water heater. We have enough food for a army. Hopefully we are ready. Did not know about the inverter.

    • Dad had COPD and had to use a nebulizer periodically. So we even had a 400 watt inverter in his car so he could plug in to it and nebulize anywhere, even on the road. With a bigger inverter, your car becomes sort of a generator so you can plug in and run some things periodically, such as furnace blower, freezer, fridge, etc.

  13. Good advice post. I am currently visiting with my daughter in Washington, and temperature is -1 degrees. Being from sunny California, this is very cold weather for me.

    • I hear you! At zero, I’ll run out and start the generator in a T shirt. A friend from Florida wears a puffy jacket, hat, scarf and winter boots at 40 above! I think each of us thinks the other is nuts.

  14. God help the old folks and the young folks who just can’t prepare like they should. PLEASE check on those who may not be set for a storm like this if you can!!!! God help us all get through this winter….and MERRY CHRISTMAS Jackie and all…. ❤

    • That’s one thing about living in a small, remote community like we do. Folks know each other and really care, even if they live miles apart.

  15. OUTSTANDING ARTICLE, Jackie! Extremely well written and chock full of useful, need to know information! As I began reading your article I was going check, check, check.
    Even blizzards can be a good thing when you stay home and spend quality time with the family (games, reading, reminiscing, etc).
    Like Melissa, I too am a worry wart over keeping my outdoor babies safe and warm.
    Merry Christmas, everyone.

  16. We live outside of Superior WI and were without power for three days from the previous storm. You are so right about being prepared! We heat with a wood stove, have a propane kitchen stove, pantry, oil lanterns and flashlights and my hubby filled the bathtub and a large clean bin with clean water. We’re ready for this one too! It was quite a change but our two bachelor sons and us actually played games and I read stories to everyone. I realized just how much we rely on electricity 😊Hope everyone stays safe!

    • Yep, those storms can sure be eye-openers. Especially to those who laugh at we who do prepare. As we live way off grid, we don’t have power outages to worry us. But, there’s often something else, like when the dratted cows got out during the worst wind and blowing snow at sub-zero temperatures this week. The only good cow is a hamburger! lol

  17. Dear Jackie, It is always best to prepare for the worst. You just never know. We got a propane tank that is ready for winter and my kitchen gas stove does use electricity to light the burners; but can be lit manually if needed and also my fireplace. I have shelves lined with canned food and meat thanks to your good books. Today I am being lazy and making a big batch of turkey broth in my crock pot to can up tomorrow. I can’t tell folks how good homemade broth will taste for soups and stews. I will have to prepare for frozen water. I think we have all our pipes fixed and outside facets; but the main water meter can freeze too. I walked out to the main one and covered it with a big piece of heavy wood so maybe it will not freeze up. Our area is not prepared for bad below degree temps that will be here tonight. Everyone, prepare, stay inside and be warm and safe. This will likely be with us for several days. If you get bored, stay inside and read a book or knit a blanket. Just stay inside.

  18. The storm is here. We aren’t getting much snow, a couple of inches is all, but the high today is negative 4. The wind is supposed to start blowing this afternoon and continue thru the day tomorrow. I have an off grid gas range that works without electricity and a wall mounted propane heater that does not require electricity. I keep my pantry stocked so if the worst should happen I hope I am prepared. One does need to think ahead and plan. Hope you all stay warm and safe. Merry Christmas to all.

    • Our storm has pretty much fizzled out. Thank God. We didn’t get much more snow but it was sub-zero for days, for a high, along with 50 mph gusts and 40 mph sustained winds. That made it pretty darned cold. But we’re through it and looking forward to warmer temperatures this coming week.

  19. We prepare to manage without electric. Over the years we have found what works for us. We just cannot manage a generator and do not want to hear one.

    If you have access to propane or natural gas, you can also get appliances that work even when the electric is out. We replaced our electric deep freezer with one powered by natural gas. EZ Freeze is the brand. You have to manually defrost it, but it is nice not to worry about when the electric is out.

    Our stove is a Premiere brand stove that has a battery ignition, also using no electric at all. It is basic: no timers, etc. but works well and suits us. I have used it in a power outage to continue cooking holiday dinner.

    We have a USB powered fan for summer and fully charged lasts overnight. We have a Jackery battery (2) we keep charged to use for laptops.. phones, USB flashlights, APAP, etc. Solar panels to recharge them if needed.

    Finally, the decorative non-electric natural gas fireplaces and wall unit heaters we have can warm the house in a power outage or at least enough to where we can sleep comfortably warm. The basement one keeps the pipes warm.

    I hope everyone stays safe and warm. Remember your animals out there, too.

  20. Amen to that Jackie! I never would have thought of an inverter. I have one in the garage that I could use if we go out again. Great idea all around there! I am so thankful we put in a wood stove last winter because it will certainly save us if need be. I have water in buckets if needed, but the animals and their water needs is always my concern. I’m not sure what one would need to run a well, but hopefully we don’t need to figure that out.

    My husband and I were talking about solar this fall, and we tossed the idea of maybe investing into it incase of emergency like these, and I suppose now I should look more closely. Not having power is a stressful thing with little kids and 200+ animals to care for!

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