Blizzards are a real threat in the winter, depending on where you live. While you might have some warning that a big storm is approaching, you never know what the weather will bring until it arrives. That's why you need to have a plan to prepare for a blizzard ahead of time.
Where I live in Ohio has plenty of snow. Living out in the country means I'm accustomed to spending time with roads that are unpassable unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle. A real blizzard can bring feet of snow in a short period, causing a city to come to a complete halt.
The best time to prepare for a blizzard is before the warning even comes. That’s when everyone rushes to the store, and you want to be in your living room with cozy socks and a good book. Preparing ahead of time is always the best line of defense. If you wait, stores are out of all of the essential items you need.
In fact, preparing for a blizzard starts months in advance when you're planning out your garden for the year. You want to plant things you can preserve and use to nourish your family. You can even plant things that you can use as medicine when everyone else is fighting for that last bottle of aspirin.
How to Prepare for a Blizzard the Homesteader’s Way
Whether you live on a homestead or not, you can get inspiration from some of the best practices homesteaders use to be prepared.
1. Have Enough Water
First and foremost, make sure you have enough water for everyone. Each person and pet needs to have at least one gallon per day.
For a family of six such as mine, I need to have six gallons of water available plus two more gallons for my two dogs. That’s eight gallons per day, and it’s recommended that everyone has at least a week’s worth of water available. That's a total of 112 gallons of water on hand.
Homesteaders also need to have water prepared for any livestock they have on their property. That might be chickens who have a cozy coop or a large stock of cattle.
2. Plant for a Stockpile
What you plant in your garden in the spring should be what you know you want to be in your stockpile for the winter. Having a full pantry means thinking ahead of time about what is best to keep you well-fed throughout the year.
Plant lots of vegetables that are easy to preserve. Veggies can be tossed into soups, stir-fries, or other dishes. Some veggies can be left in the root cellar throughout the year to eat as you need, or you might want to preserve them via canning, freezing, or fermentation.
Ultimately, everything that you plant in your garden should be for a purpose.
3. Have Plenty of Non-Perishable Food on Hand
As much as you want to, you probably can’t grow or make everything you need to have on hand for an emergency. If the power goes out, you want some food that won’t go bad if the refrigerator turns off. Some ideas include:
- Peanut butter
- Canned meat
- Canned seafood
- Protein bars and powder
- Coffee and tea
- Powdered milk
- Instant potatoes
4. A Way to Cook the Food
If the electricity goes out, do you have a way to cook food? You can only eat so many crackers with peanut butter, and with plunging temperatures, it feels good to eat a hot meal.
Find out if you can use your gas stove without electricity; most can be used by lighting the gas with a match. If you have a wood stove, you can cook on top of the woodstove, or you might need to use a grill. No one wants to stand outside and cook, so pull that grill into your garage and open the exterior door!
Another choice is a camp stove. These little stoves run on small bottles of propane, and you’ll need to have a few of those bottles on hand to serve your family several meals.
5. A Generator
Do you want to have a generator as a back-up? For our family, it was a smart choice. Having a generator means that our family can run the furnace and a few lights, as well as the refrigerator.
If you want to have a generator, you also need to store gasoline to run it for at least a day or two. Be sure to store the gas in the right containers and away from little kids. Also, you should never run a generator inside your home because it releases carbon monoxide. They're loud, so chances are you won't want it in your house anyway.
6. Alternative Heat Source
In the event that the power goes out, how are you going to stay warm? This is important, especially if you have kids and babies at home who need to be at speciific temperatures. Babies have a higher risk of hypothermia than adults.
If you have a wood stove, then you’re in luck. That’s an easy way to keep the house warm. Another choice is to use a propane heater. You can find propane heaters for around $100, and they can keep a family room nice and snug. Your entire family will need to sleep in one area, but you'll be warm.
If you're going to use anything propane related, make sure you also have a carbon monoxide detector in the room with you. Keep at least one fire extinguisher on hand. Home fires are more prevalent during snowstorms because people turn to alternative heat sources.
7. Plenty of Firewood Cut
Assuming you have a wood stove or a wood-burning fireplace, you need to have plenty of firewood cut and prepared for cutting. Any homesteader knows that all of your firewood should be prepped before winter arrives. Who wants to do that chore in the middle of the snow? Not you.
Also, be sure to check and clean your chimney. You might not realize that chimney fires are a real risk, but they happen every winter. Don’t let that be you; clean your chimney out at the start of the winter season.
8. Batteries, Flashlights, and Candles
If the power goes out, you want flashlights on hand. Candles are nice; they do add a romantic touch to the whole situation, but they're a fire risk. The chances of a fire department reaching you fast in the middle of a blizzard are slim, so I suggest candles only if you don’t have little kids or cats in the house.
Make sure you have 2-3 sets of batteries per flashlight or lantern. Try to conserve them since you have no idea how long you’ll go without power.
9. Plant Medicinal Herbs
If you want to have a medicinal herbal cabinet, then you have to plant the right herbs, first. Think about what you need and want to make. It might be salves for sore muscles, an all-natural ointment for cuts and scapes, burn creams, and more.
You also might want to make medicinal teas. Mint tea can help ease an upset stomach. Chamomile tea relieves belly aches and helps put you to sleep. You can make herbal tinctures, such as an echinacea tincture, to ward off illnesses and boost your immune system.
When you prepare for a blizzard with medicinal herbs, you should be able to treat all the basic ailments.
10. Fill Your First-Aid Kit
Aside from herbal remedies, you also want to fill your first-aid kit with other vital supplies. Be sure to keep your medicines stocked if you need to take something daily. Don’t wait until the last minute to fill your prescriptions.
Other items that you should have in your first-aid kit include:
- Medical tape
- Allergy medication
- Ace bandages
11. Snow-Removal Tools
You eventually want to leave your house, so you need some snow-removal tools. Getting outside for your pets and livestock is a must, so keep a few shovels on hand, in addition to some rock-salt.
It’s always a good idea to have a few shovels on hand if you use the plastic ones. Those things tend to break under heavy pressure.
12. Blankets, Hats, Socks, and Mittens
If the power goes out, it’s going to get cold. Even if you still have power, the low temperatures outside might make it tricky to keep your house warm. So, keep plenty of blankets, hats, socks, and mittens on hand.
I recommend keeping a bin where all of these items are stored. You can buy cheap sets that you only have for emergencies. If you have kids as I do, they tend to lose their gloves and hats frequently, and when you need them, it's impossible to find them. Keep extra sets stored away for when you need them.
The same goes for blankets. Each person needs to have a blanket or sleeping bag, including babies.
Let’s be honest; most of us are used to having something to do that involves electricity. Having some other forms of entertainment is a smart idea, especially with kids.
Keep books on hand, card games, dice games, and board games that your entire family will enjoy. If the electricity goes off, then you will want to have something for everyone to do so that you don’t hear a bunch of whining.
If it's just you, you might want an extra bottle of wine, a good book, and some cozy socks to enjoy until the weather calms down.
Prepare for a Blizzard
Most adults have some blizzard experience. I remember when we had several feet of snow at one time, and we dug tunnels for our dogs to go to the bathroom. Those memories stick out because we knew how to prepare for a blizzard. When the weather hit, we had all of the water, food, and necessary supplies to last for however long it took, so we could just have fun.
Preparing for a blizzard ahead of time gives you peace of mind, and that’s worth the effort it takes to prepare.