A major ice storm event (and snow) is forecast as I type this. It will affect a large swath of the country from the deep south into the northeast.
I will talk about the unique and major problems with an ice storm event. And what you can do to prepare.
Having experienced my share of ice storms over the years (of varying extents), expect two major likelihoods…
- Impossible travel
- Power outages
It’s simple, and obvious. When weather conditions are just right, freezing rain will rapidly build up on ALL SURFACES. It’s nearly impossible to drive a vehicle on thin “black ice”, let alone more than that! 1/8 inch. 1/4 inch. 3/8 inch. 1/2 inch! more?!!
Fuggedaboutit… You Won’t Be Driving During an Ice Storm
You will not be traveling. So be sure to get home or be home before the ice storm begins!
You WILL be risking your life if you drive on any roads during an ice storm. There will be a zillion accidents, spinouts, and people off the road. Good luck waiting for help…
Have you ever driven on ice? It’s nothing like snow! Turn the wheel and your vehicle keeps going the direction it was going… Hit the brakes and your vehicle keeps going the same speed it was going! It is a scary feeling to say the least.
SNAP… goes the Branches and Power Lines
Water is heavy. Ice is heavy. Picture a tree with all of it’s branches and limbs increasingly thick with ice. Eventually, SNAP… down comes the limbs.
And do you know where they tend to fall? That’s right – on top of power lines.
Now picture this… power lines building up ice. Bit by bit. The weight of the building ice sagging the lines. Eventually, SNAP… down comes the power lines.
Now you’re at home with no power. And it’s winter. It’s cold outside. The likelihood of quick repair is slim to none. An ice storm event is wide spread. Crews cannot even begin to work until the roads are safer to travel. You’re going to be in the dark for a longer time that you might imagine…
No Power, No Heat, No Nuttin…
Your primary concerns at home. Heat. Maybe saving the food in your chest freezer. Those who are on well water…your pump will be out. Got enough food to last a week? More?
Again, your big concern will be heat. Plan ahead for this. A quick remedy is a portable heater. I own, and recommend the “Heater Buddy” as a simple and safe heater. I wrote about it in the following article.
[ Read: Buddy Heater Runtime ]
If you have a furnace (as opposed to electric heat), pre-emptively hardwire its power source through a transfer switch. This will enable generator power to operate the furnace. I’ve done this, except it’s via my solar system battery bank and inverter.
Those with electric heat (typical in the south because it’s not needed all that often). A typical sized generator will not be adequate to fully operate most electric heat systems. They draw A LOT of electricity/power. So a portable heater is probably a better option for you.
Okay, next… Maybe you’ve got a lot of cha-ching $$ invested in food setting in your chest freezer. Don’t open it. You’ll be good for 24-48 hours. Cover it with blankets. If you have a generator, you could run an extension cord to it. Operate it for an hour, a few times a day.
A few other helpful things during an ice storm
Information! I advocate having a portable battery operated radio. One that gets AM/FM which is where you will find your local news and information. Some broadcast stations will still be up and running because the big guys have big generators to keep on transmitting.
[ Read: Best AM Radio for Long Range Listening ]
[ Read: Best Cheap AM/FM Portable Radio ]
Other obvious items include flashlights, headlamps, cooking stove safe for indoors, warm blankets, and… patience.
[ Read: Cooking Stove Safe For Indoors ]
The most important thing to do before an ice storm is to get home first. Pre-emptively have a solution for supplemental heat, because the power will likely go out, and it’s winter time. Safety first. Then the creature comforts.
Apart from that, enjoy the beauty of the ice storm. It is a remarkable scene. Especially when the sun comes out after it’s over. Take some pictures. Hopefully it won’t be a regular thing!