What a Texan Can Learn From a Pennsylvanian About a Deep Freeze – Tips and Tricks To Make Sure You Don’t Have a Terrible Winter!
February 24, 2021
Headlines heralded the sad news the week of February 15 as those across Texas faced a blast of cold air and dangerous winter storms without much preparation. The extreme weather killed people in their vehicles, houses and backyards. Temperatures ranged from 20 below 0 in northern Texas to around 10 degrees in Dallas. At least 58 people died in the storm affected areas stretching to Ohio. There were victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, some due to running the burners on a gas stove for heat, which is extremely dangerous, car crashes, drownings and hypothermia. Many older people froze death and were found in their backyards, recliners and their beds. The surge in demand for power stressed the power grid and utilities could not rotate outages. Many people were without power for days and still face a lack of water. A woman quoted in a New York Times article said, “Texas is not meant to handle freezing temperatures. It’s not something that happens out here.”
In Pennsylvania, however, most are used to dealing with the cold and stormy winter conditions. To be fair, many Pennsylvanians are quite “winter weary” this winter as storm after storm seems to pummel the region every few days, with the latest bringing snow, albeit only 1-6 inches across the eastern half of the state as of February 22. Yes, I said only 1-6 inches in jest. Winter got off to a snowy start in December with most places seeing a foot or more of snow and with a brief break for the Christmas holidays, it seems to have been going ever since. While many seriously dream about spring flowers blooming with green grass (what’s that?) and warmer temperatures, winter isn’t over yet. Here are some tips and reminders to keep you safe the rest of the winter season.
First, prepare your home for colder temperatures. Texans saw their share of frozen and burst pipes from the latest storm. Some tips to prevent that from happening include: Drain supply lines to outdoor sprinklers and pools; Close off the valve supplying your water outdoors, then turn on outside house bibs so excess water can drain; Cover exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or, in a pinch, wadded-up newspaper; let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing; open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing, especially if your sinks are on an exterior wall. For roofs: Accumulated snow can weigh heavily on a roof, especially a flat roof. Use a roof rake to get excess snow off of the roof and clear gutters as best as you can. Keep a steady temperature, both day and night. If you are away during a cold snap, keep your thermostat set to at least 55 degrees. During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning Speaking of carbon monoxide, make sure you have a CO detector along with a smoke alarm as well. Make sure trees are trimmed to prevent any heavily laden branches that may take out a power line or hit your home. You may also want to check your homeowners policy to see what is covered from damage due to a winter storm. If you have any questions, give your insurance company a call. Some heatings tips from the Red Cross are: All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment; Never leave a fire in a fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace; Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home; Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep; Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected annually by a professional and cleaned if necessary; If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes; Plug heaters' power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip. Some other ways to keep your house warm: put a draft stopper or some towels under or near doors to keep cold air out; keep blinds and curtains closed (same concept for summer to keep heat out); you can also put a towel around a drafty window sill to keep air from coming in; you can also use caulk around your windows as well. Also, don’t forget your pets. If you have an inside/outside cat, keep them indoors until the cold weather subsides. If you have animals outside, make sure they have an insulated shelter. If power does go out, if you have a generator, you can run it for some period of time. Have a few days worth of non perishable food, water and medications on hand, as well as batteries, flashlights, portable radios and make sure your cell phone is charged and only used in emergencies.
There are some good reminders from the Red Cross when it comes to winter driving as well: Keep a windshield scraper, small shovel, and small sack of sand or kitty litter for generating traction under wheels. Also carry an emergency supply kit, including warm clothing, non perishable food, like an energy bar and water; Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave right away in an emergency and to ensure you have enough fuel to keep warm if you get stuck; Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways; Don’t pass snow plows; Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways; If you become stranded, stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow; Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the vehicle; Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation; Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
Hopefully these tips will help you ride out the rest of winter.