January and February are normally our coldest months here in the Idaho mountains; and this year is proving this to be true again in 2019! It was 8 degrees this morning at 7 a.m.! It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day “warming up” to the 30 degree range by the afternoon. The U.S. Midwest is being hit with a Polar Vortex with sub-zero temps. In some areas it is colder that it has been in a generation!
So, I wanted to post some Do It Yourself winter readiness information that will help you stay informed and to keep you warm and safe.
KNOW YOUR WEATHER FORECAST!
Stay weather WISE with this interactive weather map link: Show me weather in… (type in your location) Enter your location and select future forecast periods.
PLAN AHEAD and BE PREPARED!
Use your weather wisdom to plan your winter activities and appointments. You can download a weather calendar from the above link.
Protect and maintain your vehicles to ensure they will be operational when needed. If possible, keep them in a garage, under a carport, or covered to keep your windows clear and ready to go.
Winterize your car. Use this checklist.
- Washer fluid: Top up. You don’t want to run out while driving in freezing rain or sleet. Only use fluid that’s cold-weather rated for a minimum -20 F, like Rain-X de-icing additive.
- Tires: Make sure they have plenty of tread. If you aren’t sure how to determine this, get them checked out. Many tire stores will do a tread check for free. Alternatively, place a quarter into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Washington’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 4/32 inch of tread depth left, which is OK.
- Tire pressure: Tires lose pressure in the winter because cold air contracts.
- Brakes: If they’re squeaking or feel soft, get them checked. It’s hard enough to stop on icy roads with proper brakes, let alone worn-out ones.
- Wiper blades: If you’re ready for a replacement, check out Bosch Icons.
- Battery: Don’t be the unlucky person with a dead winter battery. Some brick-and-mortar retailers, like AutoZone, will test your battery for free so you know it can still properly hold a charge.
- Oil: Use 5W-30 weight oil, which is common for year-round use.
- Engine air filter: Remove it and hold a lamp or flashlight to it. If you see light through most of the filter, it’s got plenty of life. But if the light is mostly blocked, replace it.
- Coolant: You want a 50-50 mixture of antifreeze and water in the radiator.
- Gas: Don’t run it until it’s empty. Some say to drive in the “top half” of the tank with more frequent refills, so you’re less likely to be caught with little or no fuel. Having a full tank also helps prevent moisture from freezing in the gas lines.
- Belts and hoses: Especially for older vehicles, make sure drive belts aren’t cracked or frayed. Ensure belt clamps aren’t loose.
- Door weather stripping: Wipe the soft, rubbery black strips inside the doors with Armor All or silicone spray lubricant to keep them from freezing shut.
Keep a cold weather emergency/survival kit in your car. Here is a checklist with links to suggested items:
- Collapsible shovel (also known as an entrenchment tool) to clear snow or break ice
- Ice scraper with brush
- Extra deicing fluid. Even if you top up your washer fluid during maintenance, some people keep extra in the car because they burn through it in the winter or use it to rub down windows other than the windshield.
- Something for tire traction, like salt, tire traction mats, coarse sand, or even kitty litter
- Tow strap
- Flares or road signals
- Battery jumper cables (ideally 20 feet long), or a battery jump starter if you’re unlikely to be near other people
- Hand warmers, either disposable or rechargeable
- Tire chains (click this link for snow tire chain selection and use info)
- Wool blankets, sleeping bags, or emergency Mylar pouches in case you need to sleep in your vehicle or outside in the cold. Emergency (Mylar) blankets, bivvy, or cold-rated sleeping bag.
- Warm clothes: layers, gloves, hat. Even if you have some in your GHB, two is better than one.
- Appropriate footwear. Don’t get caught walking home in a snowstorm in your work heels. A bonus option is Yaktrax cleats that strap onto your shoes.
- For RWD trucks, add weight to the bed of your truck, which could be accomplished with bags of salt or sand.
- Stored water and water filter or purifier
- USB charging cable for phone and portable battery/solar backup
- Fire starting tools
- Survival food, like MREs or calorie blocks
- Field knife and/or multi-tool
- Small medical kit
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Compass or mobile phone with compass app
- Backpack to store some of these items in case you have to leave your car and walk home.
Prep your home for very cold weather.
- Budget for the unexpected cost of heating your home in extremely cold weather. If you have wood burning heat source, be sure that you have an adequate supply of dry seasoned firewood. If you have, propane/gas heating, be sure your tank is full and recently serviced. If you have electric heat, make sure your HVAC is inspected and all repairs accomplished.
- Invest in a home generator for back-up electricity source. Test it to make sure it operates as expected.
- Install an audible UL-listed carbon monoxide alarm. Test it to be sure it operates as expected.
- If you use space heaters, limit them to 1 per room and ensure there is always at least a 3 foot clearance around them.
- Close off heat vents in unused rooms and keep the doors closed.
- Plan what you will do if you have a long term power outage. How will you heat your home? How will you cook your food? How will you keep perishables from spoilage?
- Stay stocked up on all your food staples in case you are home bound for a long period of time. Don’t wait to the last minute to do your shopping. Even if you are able to get to the market, in really bad weather, the stores may be closed when you get there!
- Prep your snow removal tools and equipment to be sure they are ready to use and are stored in an easy to access location.
- If you have a chimney, have it inspected and cleaned.
- Install heat tape on your roof to prevent roof ice dams.
- Cover your crawl space vents and wrap pipes in crawl space/attic with insulation material to prevent them from freezing.
- Drain and store all watering hoses and blow out your sprinkler systems
- Be sure you have an adequate supply of de-icing salt to keep your home entries safe.
- Inspect your house foundation for cracks and repair them.
- Inspect seals around your doors and windows and replace as needed ensure they provide proper insulation from the cold weather.
- Prepare an Cold Weather Emergency Kit (similar to you car’s emergency kit) and talk through your emergency plan with all family members.
Educate yourself and acquire some cold weather survival skills. Here are a few educational websites with great DIY cold weather survival tips.
- Cold Weather Survival Manual
- Extreme Cold Weather Survival Tips
- Tips to Survive Cold Weather
- Outdoor Cold Weather Survival Skills
- Be Prepared for Cold Weather Emergencies
USE YOUR GOOD OLD FASHIONED COMMON SENSE!
Know the road conditions and stay off the roads as much as possible when there is a risk of snowy/icy roads.
Practice putting snow chains on your tires before you need them. See this video on how to put snow chains on your tires .
Know what your vehicles’ tire pressure should be in cold weather. Your vehicles’ tires may slightly deflate in very cold temps causing your ‘low tire pressure’ light to come on.
Always allow your vehicle’s engine to warm up before your leave.
When the temps drop into the single digits and below zero, stay INDOORS.
If you are going to be outdoors in frigid weather, whether for work or play, dress weather appropriate. Here are some basic principles to keep warm while outdoors in very cold weather!
- Keep clothing clean and dry.
- Avoid overheating and sweating.
- Wear clothes loose and in layers.
- Keep all body extremities (head, face, hands, and feet) covered and well protected. All exposed skin tissue/body parts (nose, ears, fingers, toes, etc.) are candidates for frostbite. Frostbite can occur in minutes before you know it and can cause permanent damage your skin/body. Click this link to learn How to Prevent, Identify, and Treat Frostbite
Protect your fur babies. Remember if you are cold, your pets are too. Most domesticated animals (dogs and cats) cannot endure freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit and below) temps. Bring them indoors especially at night. Even the animals that stay outdoors in cold weather need a way to keep their water from freezing and a warm dry shelter to sleep.
I hope this information helps you survive this very cold winter season.