The Hidden Dangers of a Winter Storm

Winter storm Isaiah hit hit multiple areas of the country with snow and ice over the weekend. The National Weather Service calls storms like this “deceptive killers” because most deaths are related indirectly to the storm itself. If your area is under a winter storm watch or warning, Weather Underground says, make sure you have rock salt or deicer, snow shovels, heating fuel, and adequate clothing and blankets. If signs of frostbite (loss of feeling and pale appearance in extremities) or hypothermia (shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion) are apparent, seek medical help immediately. #WinterTips

Winter Came Early. Are You Ready?

Many areas across the country are experiencing a fast end to the manageably crisp fall temperatures they usually enjoy, going from jacket weather to parka-and-longjohns overnight. Many areas that could expect highs to hover in the 50s are experiencing record-breaking lows; some already have a blanket of snow on the ground and below-zero wind chills.

The abrupt transition from seasonably cool to fantastically frigid likely took many readers (and this author) by surprise. Their best winter garments are probably still in storage or at the cleaners, leaving them to cobble together layered outfits to brave the cold or simply huddle indoors until the sudden cold snap passes.

If you haven’t yet bundled up, now’s a good time to start. Many retailers have announced Black Friday deals well ahead of the actual day, so you can buy yourself that new coat, sweater or blanket at a discount. Better still, you can find lightly used garments at area thrift stores supplied by ClothingDonations.org a fraction of their original retail prices.

Once you’ve got yourself covered, you’ll want to prepare for the worst. Winter storms could trap you inside for days, so make sure you have a good snow shovel and plenty of food and drinking water on hand, Simple Family Preparedness says. Stock up on wood for the fireplace and salt or sand for the sidewalks.

If an extended deep freeze is on the way, fill your gas tank to prevent fuel line freezes. Charge cell phones and fuel backup generators. Weather-strip drafty windows and doors. And refamiliarize yourself with the location of your home’s main water valve in case the pipes freeze and burst.

Most home winterization tasks are a matter of keeping snow, ice and prolonged below-zero temperatures from ruining the equipment that keeps your home climate-controlled in the first place. “Proper winterization involves a systematic review of your home’s HVAC equipment, as well as the critical structural and mechanical systems,” The Spruce says.

Check the furnace and replace filters. Cover your central air conditioning unit to prevent debris from getting in it. Inspect and clean the chimney and insulate exposed pipes against freezes. It’s a lot to get done — but once you do, you can ride out the cold winter months in calm and comfort. Get started before it’s too late!

There’s No Dirt Like Winter Dirt

Many parts of the country that don’t get a lot of snow and ice did earlier this month, and it looks like there’s more to come. Readers who live in the North know how easy it is to bring mud, moisture and salt into the house, and have strategies to keep tracked-in dirt at bay. But some of these strategies bear repeating.

First, encourage everyone who enters your home to remove their shoes. This is the No. 1 way for winter dirt to enter your living space, and even the freshest, whitest snow likely contains salt, sand and other contaminants that will dirty the floors. Place trays or washable throw rugs by all exterior doors to catch the muck melting from footwear.

Throw rugs are often the best defense for high-traffic areas; they catch winter dirt and can be shaken out or thrown into the wash easily. Use them even on top of wall-to-wall carpet, since it’s difficult to get carpeting to look clean and bright again once people track dirty snow onto it.

Leave a towel by the door to wipe down your pets following a walk or romp in the snow, says the Vivint Smart Home blog. Many dogs and cats also develop thicker coats in cold weather, and ultimately shed more. Brush and groom them regularly to prevent that fur from flying everywhere and attaching itself to furniture and clothing.

If you haven’t already, change out the furnace filters, dust the ceiling fan blades, and vacuum refrigerator coils and blinds to keep allergens to a minimum while the house is closed up against the cold, House Logic says. Sheets, blankets and comforters also catch a lot of dust and dirt, so be sure to so wash them frequently.

Be vigilant. You can’t keep every speck of dust and dirt out of your house in winter, but you can keep it from building up, aggravating allergies and causing permanent damage to floors, carpets and other surfaces. Sweep, vacuum and mop frequently to get any dirt that’s brought into the house out quickly.

If the weather forecasts are correct, you’ll be spending lots of time indoors for a few more weeks, so take the appropriate steps to make sure your environment is clean and healthy. Then, count down the days until spring!

Celebrating the Great Indoors

With record low temperatures throughout the eastern half of the United States and snow falling as far south as Florida, many people are finding they suddenly have a lot of indoor time to fill this winter. You can curse the cold and simply endure it in front of the TV, or you can make the most of that time.

There isn’t as much going on during the winter months, meaning you’ll have lots of time to tackle household projects that got pushed aside during the other seasons. Do you have a shelf to install, a socket to rewire, or a room to paint? Now’s the time to tackle some of those indoorsy tasks.

Consider getting a head start on your spring cleaning—that’s one ever-present indoor project that doesn’t have a minimum temperature. Start with a room or a closet and sort everything in it into “keep,” “donate” and “trash” piles. Contact ClothingDonations.org to pick up the donations, and you’ll help fund veterans’ programs nationwide.

Cold weather is linked to more focused brain activity and greater productivity, so winter is a great time make plans. “Take advantage of the long, quiet, dark nights to review the past year and set relevant, challenging goals for the year ahead,” the Lifehack blog says.

You also can use your extra indoor time to start a new hobby, take a class or try out new recipes (with the bonus of warming the kitchen while you cook). There are lots of activities that can keep you entertained while you’re snowed in, Wisebread says.

There’s nothing wrong with a little hibernating, of course. Embrace the season by following the Norwegian concept of koselig: Build a fire in the fireplace, take a hot bath, make hot chocolate (or hot toddies), and pile on the blankets. Invite your friends over to share in your newfound ski-lodge sensibility.

If you just can’t take the snow and ice any longer, plan a vacation. Not only will it give you a sense of purpose, the anticipation of adventure will make the days go by faster. If you escape to a warm and sunny spot, though, be prepared for the letdown of returning to more frigid temperatures.

Whatever you choose to do with your extra time in the great indoors, simply looking at it as a gift and not a burden will help you cope with the worst that winter has to offer. Stay warm!

Take Home Winterizing to the Next Level

Now that you’ve bought a programmable thermostat and replaced the furnace filters, it’s time to take your winterization to the next level. If you plan on using your fireplace, get it swept and stockpile wood, says The Balance blog; if not, install a chimney balloon to block downdrafts. Remember to get winter-specific equipment such as snowblowers, snow shovels and road salt ready for the onslaught of ice and snow, while also draining summer equipment such garden hoses, lawnmowers and air conditioners to prevent freezes and failures. Then, settle in for a safe and toasty winter!