The Capital Weather Gang is saying that the DC area could see between 16 and 30 inches of snow from winter storm Jonas starting around 3 pm today through Saturday Night. In fact, there is a winter storm warning for the DC area, which means life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately. If you are unsure of the difference between an outlook, advisory, watch, and warning, the Red Cross breaks them down well here.
Below is a checklist of things I recommend you do to make sure you and your family are ready for this winter storm.
Food and Water: You want to make sure you have enough food and water for the duration of the winter storm, and I’d say a couple of days after as it may take some time for stores to open and inventory to be replenished. Keep in mind, you may lose power, so food that does not require heat to eat such as peanut butter, honey, crackers, fruit, and canned soup (I’d eat it) will keep you nourished. Here are some more pantry suggestions from weather.com. Also, don’t forget to stock up for your pets!
Medicines: Make sure your prescriptions are filled and you have plenty to get you through and past the storm.
Flashlights, batteries, and chargers: The power might go out, and you will want to be able to see in the dark, and be able to make calls to update family and friends that you are OK. Heaven forbid you or someone needs assistance, but you will want to be able to call for help. Let’s also not kid around, you will want to Instagram how high the snow is when you open the front door #nofilter. Don’t forget to get batteries. I’d also make sure your backup chargers are fully charged. My wife never does this, and it drives me crazy! But I digress…
Vehicle: Keep a full tank of gas as this prevents the fuel lines from freezing. If there is a gas shortage following the storm (remember what happened in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy), a full tank of gas will come in handy. Finally, don’t forget to lift your wipers up off your windshield to prevent them from freezing together. No fun. We also keep a full package of snacks (like Kind bars), water, and extra blankets in our Jeep at all times.
Shoveling: If you know me at all, you know that I want you to shovel out your neighbors. What you may not know is that it is also important to shovel out curb cuts, bus stops, handicap spots, fire hydrants, and when you shovel, you should make a path at least 36 inches wide so your neighbors with mobility challenges and who use wheelchairs can get by safely.
Shoveling can also lead to injury and in some cases death. Make sure you are healthy enough to shovel. If you are not sure, consult your doctor. If you do shovel, go slow, take it one scoop at a time. In a winter storm like Jonas, when the snow gets deep, I keep my scoops to three inches or less per scoop. It may feel like it takes longer, but throwing out your back will take a month longer to recover. Take breaks and drink plenty of water.
Keep an eye out for large accumulations of snow on top of the roof of your house. The weight can cause roofs to collapse. Most people probably shouldn’t be climbing on top of their houses to clear it off, but they might want to pay someone to do it.
I also recommend you post to your Nextdoor neighborhood to let your neighbors know you are willing to help them shovel out and to see if other neighbors are willing to help you shovel out bus stops, fire hydrants and curb cuts, which often get plowed in. Plus, shoveling is more fun with neighbors! You of course should also check out Snowcrew.org to see if there are others not yet on Nextdoor who need help shoveling.
Laundry and infants: In my friend Liz’s own words …”Do all the laundry, especially the baby laundry, NOW! If your power gets cut, you’re stuck if you don’t have clean clothes, blankies, burp cloths, etc. Don’t leave a big load in the hamper.” Thanks Liz, will do.
Speaking of infants and clean cloths, here is a super cute picture of my daughter to break up all this text. You are welcome!
Flushing: If you lose power, you can still flush your toilet but you will need water. Fill your tub with water, so you don’t run out!
If you have some extra time to prepare, below is an exhaustive list of tips the Red Cross offers for remaining safe during the storm:
- Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information on snowstorms and blizzards from the National Weather Service (NWS).
- Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure that their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles. (Cities like DC will fine you.)
- Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst. (Sometimes utility companies or local gov agencies have programs to waive, finance, or somehow help with additional energy expenses during extreme weather.)
- Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold.
- Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
- Before tackling strenuous tasks in cold temperatures, consider your physical condition, the weather factors and the nature of the task.
- Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.
- Help people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills
- Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
- The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
- If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
- Call for help from a fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.
Also be sure to see FEMA’s extensive winter weather prep guide.