If (and only if) you’re fit and efficient enough to shovel, consider doing the task for neighbors who are less physically able. It’s not just the neighborly thing to do—it might save their life.
2. Just don’t drive
Newscasters repeat it ad nauseum before and during winter storms: stay home, and don’t drive unless you absolutely have to. There’s a reason for that—900 people die every year in car accidents related to winter road dangers, and tens of thousands are hospitalized.
If you must drive, take some steps to ensure your safety on the road.
- Only drive a vehicle with winter tires. It’s the tires, not 4WD, that makes a vehicle road-worthy in snow.
- Don’t drive in your snow boots—change into regular shoes. Drivers in boots often mash down on the wrong pedal.
- Clear snow from the roof and hood of your car. Chunks of snow and ice can fly off your car and kill or injure others.
- Drive slowly and cautiously, with your lights and hazards on if visibility is low. Never drive in a full whiteout.
- Before any drive (of any distance), tell at least one person where you plan to go and when you plan to arrive.
- If stranded, only run the car for 10 minutes every hour to maintain heat. Attach a piece of cloth or a rag to your antenna to signal rescuers.
- Before the storm, make sure your car is full of gas and stocked with emergency supplies.
But seriously—if it isn’t a matter of life and death, just stay off the roads until the storm passes.
3. Prep for a power outage
The high winds of bomb cyclones often knock down trees and electric lines, causing power outages that can take days to repair.
In the days leading up to the storm, prepare to live without power. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your flashlights and carbon monoxide detectors, and test our your gas-powered generators or emergency heaters if you have them.
If your power does shut off, close off any unused rooms to consolidate heat. Try to put on a few extra layers before you feel like you really need them.
In a pinch, a few tealights in a coffee can will put off enough heat to warm your hands. As always, use common sense around these open flames.
4. Beware of carbon monoxide
About 430 Americans die every year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and most of those deaths occur during the colder months.
Carbon monoxide is produced as exhaust by most gas-burning appliances. It’s a biproduct of camping stoves, grills, gas-powered power generators, and some emergency heaters. Basically all the appliances you’ll rely on if the power goes out in a blizzard.
Only use gas-powered appliances in a well-ventilated room, even if their labels say they’re safe for use indoors (our indoor environments are locked up extra tight in cold weather). Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detecter nearby, and only use emergency heaters in short bursts.