Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Blizzard

Weather is part of life and around here it changes rapidly. About ten days ago, the witch-doctors ( AKA weather-people) started predicting a storm. We've seen this game before, and nobody pays them much attention until about 72 hours before their prediction is supposed to hit. As the storm got closer, it turned into a “blizzard” and they were predicting between one and three feet of snow, with 40 mph winds. By the time it actually hit we got about 6-8 inches of snow. They were right about the winds; we had sustained 30 mph winds with gusts over 40 mph, and it lasted for about 24 hours, so it met the definition of a blizzard.

What happens during a blizzard around here? 
Things have changed a bit since I was a kid, but in general:
  • Schools close for days. Many businesses close as well.
  • Roads get cleared, with business and wealthier areas getting priority.
  • Stores get cleaned out of staples like bread, milk and eggs.
  • Traffic slows to a crawl and many people just stay inside where it's warm.
  • Darwin's law starts to rear its head. Idiots attempt to remove themselves from the gene pool.
  • Hospitals fill up with heart attacks, sprained backs, and broken bones from shoveling snow and slips on the ice.
My preps for a blizzard are minimal. 
We see them often enough that they are not something extraordinary or bizarre, just a part of winter.
  • The pantry is already stocked for far longer than any blizzard will last.
  • I have no kids at home, so school closings have no effect on me any more beyond watching out for children in the streets.
  • My generator is sized to be able to run my furnace, which is oil-fired. I keep the 500 gallon fuel oil tank (enough for at least two months of harsh winter) at least half full. Eventually I plan on getting a slightly larger generator that burns #2 diesel, which is identical to #1 fuel oil, and a secondary fuel tank.
  • Warm clothes and blankets are already out of storage. I'm skinny and get cold easily, so I have more ways to stay warm than I'll probably ever need. It's a personal peeve of mine; I hate being cold and I live in an area that gets brutal winters some years.
  • Water is not an issue. The town water supply is gravity-fed and will last a few days without pumps. I also have stored water and purification methods on hand.
  • Back-up lighting, in case the power goes out, is on hand in a variety of forms. Candles, oil lamps, Coleman lanterns, flashlights, etc. are scattered around the house. I live in an older house with tall windows on the south side, so ambient light during the day is usually enough.
  • I tend to “shelter in place” during nasty storms. Unless family is in danger, I don't travel when it is snowing and blowing hard enough to drop visibility to less than 100 yards.
  • I have an all-wheel-drive vehicle just in case I need to get somewhere. It gets crappy mileage (<5 mpg) and is slow (max speed ~ 50 mph), but it will go just about anywhere.
  • One of the things that influenced my decision to buy the house I'm in was the roof. I live where it snows, so I looked for a house with a steep pitch to the roof. It sheds snow and is less likely to fail due to overloading. Flat roofs collapsing are normal events in the news every winter, and I don't need that headache.
  • I'm getting older, so I have to pay closer attention to how much I exert myself while moving snow. I've been walking and skating on ice since I was able to walk, but I still have to watch where my feet are going.

Since every storm is a bit different, I did learn a few things. 
These are what I need to improve:
  • My wife is not a prepper. When the power goes out, she gets quite upset. Without her TV and internet, boredom sets in within minutes, and lack of light is just not allowed. I'm working on that, trying to find ways to keep her mind occupied. She has a few low-tech hobbies, so I've been encouraging those over staring at the boob-tube.
  • I try to keep an eye out for my neighbors, mainly the widows, older folks, and single parents. The neighborhood has lost about a third of its families in the last couple of years and I need to get to know the few new neighbors. I have extra lights and warm clothes, and have shared in the past.
  • I've come to the conclusion that it may be possible to be too well-prepared. This last storm hit and I got bored because I had my bases covered. Bored is better than scrambling, but forced inactivity gets to me.
Stay warm and safe this winter!

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