Cold Winter Weather in the Mountains

Surviving Winter Storms

Right now much of North America is experiencing an arctic blast of cold air, snow, and ice storms.  Here in Colorado the high today was 4 degrees. and it felt warm compared to yesterday, sort of.  The place where I hunt elk in the Flat Tops was 31 below zero yesterday, but tomorrow is looking up; it is supposed to get up to 12 degrees above zero here.  I had a pheasant hunt planned for tomorrow with a friend of mine and his 10 year old boy, but we decided to cancel that.  I want that boy’s first pheasant hunt to be a memorable one, not a miserable one.  I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed that either.  While there are times we have to endure extreme weather conditions to hunt, we had a choice about tomorrow, and chose not to go.

A lot of people overlook the dangers of winter weather, but it can be quite deadly, especially if you are hunting or traveling, or even if you are just waiting it out at home.  While the severity of winter varies by regions, almost all Americans will experience the effects of a winter storm at some point in their lives.  As I always say, the key to survival is preparedness and knowledge, and in the case of winter storms, I can’t emphasize enough the need to be prepared.

You might think that you will be safe in your home if a winter storm hits your area, but you couldn’t be more wrong if you are not prepared.  The most devastating event is if your home loses power during a winter storm, which means you lose light, heat, the ability to cook food, and if your pipes freeze, you lose water.  Here are some things you can do to be prepared in your home, and do these things before the winter season hits.  If you wait until the situation is upon you, you will be contending with all of the other people who did not prepare.  You should have these things in your home:

  • Five gallon jugs full of water inside your home where they won’t freeze; I keep four in the house.  If you don’t have five gallon jugs, don’t despair; most grocery stores sell water in 2 gallon jugs, just pick one up several times throughout the year during your normal shopping, and you will build up a good supply of water in no time.
  • It’s also a good idea to fill your bath tub full of water if a bad storm is coming; this provides you a reservoir of water for many uses.  Keep in mind that your water heater holds 40 – 60 gallons of water that can be drained for emergency use; just be sure to turn off the gas before you drain it.  Water heaters have a drain at the base where you can attach a garden hose and drain that water into whatever receptacle you may have.


    Water Heater Drain

  • Plenty of non-perishable food on hand, enough to last you at least a week.  Freeze dried foods and canned goods will last for a very long time.  Have an area in your house where you store this emergency food, and resist any temptation to use it during your normal course of daily living.  If you do lose power, cook all meats that you have in your fridge right away as cooked meat will preserve longer than raw meat.
  • A source of heat.  If you have a fireplace, make sure you have a good supply of firewood.  If not, have a kerosene or propane heater and plenty of fuel (keep in mind that you need proper ventilation for these heaters).  My kerosene heater will use about a gallon every six hours if I have it going full blast, but I crank it down to half blast after the room is warm.
  • You may also choose to have a generator which can provide power for lighting and space heaters.  Make sure you have plenty of fuel, heavy extension cords, and a multi-plug power strip so you can plug in multiple devices.
  • Lanterns, flashlights, and spare batteries or fuel.  Candles are also a great thing to have for both light and heat.
  • Propane stove for cooking.
  • An emergency supply of things like toilet paper, toiletries, medications, and whatever else you need to live comfortably day-to-day.
  • Sleeping bag – you would be surprised how much of a difference it makes to have a sleeping bag under the covers of the same bed you sleep in every night.
  • Radio and spare batteries – this will allow you to stay in touch with any information that is being disseminated through the public airways.
  • Solar charger – while this may seem extravagant, there are many solar chargers available today that can charge your cell phone, batteries, and other devices.  The prices have come way down on these chargers, and all they need is sun.
  • Snow shovel, sand, and salt – if you live in an area where you are likely to get snow and ice, make sure you have these things on hand.

If you prepare in this manner, you should be able to withstand a winter storm with ease.  Back in 2004 we had a massive snow storm in Colorado, and my son and I were trapped in our house for four days.  At the time I had a Ford F350, and I couldn’t even get it out of the driveway that was buried in almost four feet of snow.  This storm we are experiencing now isn’t keeping me at home, but if the power went out, I surely would not want to be out in this weather.  It is minus 4 degrees right now and only getting colder as the night progresses.


Shoveling Out of a Storm

Don’t assume that you won’t be affected by a winter storm, and always be prepared.  If you are prepared and know what to do, you will be fine.  I will write another article about being prepared while traveling, as this time of year many people are driving or flying to visit family for the holidays, which presents a whole new set of requirements for survival.