Eight Essential Tips to Surviving Winter Storms

When my kids were very little, I think the year was 1990, our area was hit hard by an ice storm that left many, including us, without power for several days. During the storm I would step out onto our porch to watch and listen as tree branches snapped off and crashed to the ground, sounding like chandeliers hitting a ballroom floor. If a falling branch did not knock out your power line the weight of the accumulated ice would do the job.

We hung blankets over doorways and heated our little closed off area with the gas oven, which they tell you is a big no-no but you will do anyway when you have no other heat source and cold little children. Eventually we ended up taking the kids over to a relative’s house that had power until ours was restored.

There have been plenty of storms since then (this IS Iowa, after all) but the ice storm sticks in my memory because of the helpless feeling we had because we were so unprepared. It was a good lesson to learn and today we are much better prepared for storms and outages. Following are what I consider the top eight essential winter storm preparedness tips.

Insulate, caulk and cover. In case of a power outage the tighter your house is sealed the longer it will take for the warm air inside to be replaced by the cold air outside.

Emergency heat source. That could be a kerosene heater, a coal or wood stove, a fireplace or even a camping stove. Proper venting is a safety priority. A gas powered generator is another option but not many people want to put out the money for something they would rarely use. A couple of years ago I bought a never used kerosene heater together with five gallons of kerosene off of Craigslist for $50. It still has not been used, for which I am thankful.

Food and Water. Canned goods and a hand operated can opener are a must, along with several gallons of water. We wash out and reuse plastic gallon milk containers to store our emergency water, which I rotate by using the jugs to water plants and then refilling them every few months.

Blankets and Sleeping Bags. I prefer sleeping bags in this category because they more efficiently hold in your body heat.

A Radio. A good old fashioned battery powered radio with extra batteries is a must to keep up with the news and weather reports, while a hand crank weather radio would be ideal. In case of a power outage those cell phones are only going to last for so long and there will be no way to recharge them. Invention Idea: hand crank cell phone charger?

Flashlights, candles and lamps. We have a full kerosene lamp on every floor of our house, as well as a tote in the basement full of candles, matches, flashlights and batteries.

First Aid Supplies. If you keep your medicine cabinet fully and freshly stocked you should be okay with what you have on hand.

Snow Shovels and Rock Salt. I keep a shovel and salt right outside my backdoor that I can reach without stepping outside just by opening the door. In temperate areas that experience full blown, month’s long winters I think a gas powered snow thrower is a very good investment. Mine has been getting a work out this winter as we have already accumulated over two feet of snow so far, with more on the way.

Related Reading:

Eight Essentials for Winter Driving 

How to Find Free Firewood 


  1. We have several wind-up flashlights (the LED type), one of which has a radio and a car-adapter port, so you can crank to charge up a cell phone, or in our case, the kids hand-held video games. Anything to help pass the time if the power goes out for days!! It wasn't too expensive, either.

  2. Thanks for the heads up, it makes a nice addition to the list. I figured there was something like that available.


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