- During winter freezes, experts recommend limiting your time outdoors to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.
- In the event of a power outage, the best foods and drinks to have on hand are nutrient-dense and protein-rich ones that require no preparation.
- Non-essential travel is not recommended during winter storms.
Cities in the Midwest, South and East Coast are currently experiencing low temperatures. A hurricane-like winter storm — dubbed a “bomb cyclone” — is set to hit New England this weekend.
Power outages and food shortages are likely as winter freeze warnings come in. Just a year ago, Texas faced grid failures after three consecutive winter storms.
To better prepare for these freezing temperatures and snowfalls, we asked experts to share their tips on how to stay warm and prepare for emergencies.
How to stay warm during winter storms and power outages
The best way to stay warm is to stay indoors and limit your overall exposure to cold temperatures.
Spending too much time outdoors can lead to hypothermia and frostbite, said Joseph Basile, MD, MBA, FACEP, interim chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Staten Island Hospital.
If you’re outside when it’s freezing outside, Basile recommends paying close attention to the warning signs and symptoms of hypothermia, including:
- memory loss
- slurred speech
“If you must go out, dress appropriately and make sure the body parts most commonly affected by frostbite are covered with warm, dry clothing,” Basel told Wavell by email. “The body parts most commonly affected by frostbite are the nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin and fingers.”
Are warming centers safe during a pandemic?
Also, watch out for the onset of frostbite. Signs include “redness, numbness, or pain in any area of skin exposed to cold,” Basile adds.
It’s best to layer when you’re outside, and be sure to use a blanket when you’re in a tight space. You can also add instant hot packs such as Hothands to your winter freezer kit. Under clothing or hats and gloves, these wraps absorb heat and provide an extra layer of warmth.
Preparing for the winter freeze
Extreme weather events can trigger food hoarding and hoarding. Combined with the current COVID-related supply chain issues, grocery stores across the country are struggling to keep essential food items — milk, meat, soup and produce — stocked.
While you shouldn’t stock up on food and exacerbate the problem, it’s a good idea to keep some items in your pantry. To make sure you have enough food, Rachel Dowty Beech, Ph.D., assistant professor in the emergency management program at the University of New Haven, recommends stocking up on nutrient-dense, protein-rich foods, especially during a power outage.
Examples include nutrition bars, nuts, crackers, dry cereal, and bottled water.
“Canned food lives up to its name in an emergency, as long as you remember to have a manual can opener,” Beech told VigorTip.
If you have a hot stove, you can buy:
- instant oatmeal
- Dehydrated food package
Preparing for a winter freeze also means planning for potential power outages. Make sure your phone and electronics are fully charged before they run out, and check the weather every day.
“If the temperature is expected to rise above freezing in a day or two, run the faucet to help keep the pipes from freezing,” Beach said. She added that if you live in an area where temperatures are below freezing, it’s best not to have a dripping faucet, as this can cause ice to form in the pipes.
Finally, Beech recommends opening any cabinet doors, such as those under the kitchen sink, so the heat can easily reach the pipes and prevent them from freezing.
what does this mean to you
During winter storms, it is best to stay indoors. If you need to go outside, wear multiple layers of dry clothing, such as thermal clothing, and add an instant heat pack under your clothing for added warmth.
Taking Transportation During Winter Freezing
All non-essential travel is discouraged due to dangerous weather conditions for travel. “There is an increased risk of accidents due to difficult driving conditions,” caused by snow, black ice and sleet, Basile said.
If you need to travel, Basile recommends using public transport instead of driving.
If you must drive, he says give yourself extra time, exercise caution and use main streets and highways as much as possible. The National Weather Service recommends carrying a winter survival kit with your car, which contains the following supplies:
- jumper cable
- First aid kit
- Baby diapers, formula and food
- preservative food
- a gallon of water
- Basic kit with pliers, wrench and screwdriver
- pet supplies
- Radio (battery or hand crank)
- Cat litter or sand for better tire traction
- If needed, dig out with a shovel
- ice scraper
- extra clothes and blankets
“A lot of these supplies are also prepared for other emergencies in the event of a power outage, so if you can get all or some of these items, they’ll come in handy when there may be no freeze but still no electricity,” Beach said Say. “Keep in mind that some people out there have no or no electricity, so if you can buy extra and donate to a local shelter or food pantry, please do so.”