If there is one consistent truth about weather, it is that it is almost always inconsistent and unplanned for. The first sign of stormy Winter weather coming may be too late to start planning. Fall is a better time. Your Winter storm kit may be stored in a large closet, a basement, an attached garage, or an unused room. Although a shed or a detached garage may have more room, if you are snowed in, you may not be able to get through for the needed supplies quickly enough, if at all. This article is written for a worst-case scenario: a major winter storm lasting a week or longer. If its ferocity approaches the massive storm of February, 2011, you can expect blizzards, hail, snow and ice, and lengthy power outages. You will not be able to travel, so prepare to hunker down at home and ride it out.
Provide Warmth During Power FailureIn our worst-case scenario, there will be a power failure of indeterminate time, so you should prepare for it up front. If you are lucky enough to have an emergency generator, you may not be faced with the hazards of a power failure. However these tips are written with the assumption most people do not have generators. The biggest potential for danger during freezing weather both for cats and for humans is hypothermia. The first rule is to keep everyone in the family - human and pets - together in the same room, for shared body warmth. Logically, it would be a room with with a fireplace or wood stove. If you do not have a fireplace or wood stove, you will need to make do with substitutes. The essentials you will need for heat:
- Fireplace or Wood Stove
Most homes in areas with extreme winters have either fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. You should have an ample supply of wood to last a week or longer. Pressed wood logs will take up less space, and will burn up to three hours. Be sure to have adequate ventilation in either case.
Mylar Blankets (Compare Prices)
Humans can use Mylar Blankets inside sleeping bags, or wrap up in one on a rug or other soft surface. Be sure to cover your head too, as suggested in this article.
Line cardboard boxes with pieces of Mylar Blankets for your cats, then pad with old towels and blankets. If there is space for cat crates, you could use blankets on the floor of the crate and tape Mylar Blanket around the outside.
Attach Mylar Blanket material to moldings around windows with duct tape to keep cold air from entering the home.
Routinely wrap insulating material around your outdoor water pipes to keep them from freezing. While you're at it, use plumber's Teflon tape to wrap all your interior water pipes. The last thing you'll need is water all over the floor from a burst pipe.
- Protect Cats Medications
Once the power goes out, Keep perishables in the refrigerator and freezer as long as the appliance stays cold inside. Keep the doors closed as much as possible. Once the cold compartments start to warm, you'll need an ice chest. You can prepare it in advance with the ice in your refrigerator. Otherwise, you might be able to get clean snow. You'll need to keep absolute essentials in it, such as liquid medicines for your cats, or Lactated Ringers Solution for cats with chronic renal failure. Alternately, you could use a box lined with Mylar Blanket material. If you have a wood-burning stove, you can set a pan of water on top to heat for warming up the Ringers to the cat's normal body temperature.
Light and Communication
Even daylight hours can be dark during a power failure, especially with windows covered. Thanks to LED technology, safe substitutes are available for lighting without the danger of lighting a candle.
- Battery Operated LED Lanterns
There are a number of different "LED camping lanterns," which are powered by batteries, with prices ranging from $10 to $25 or more. Be sure to buy plenty of spare batteries. ( Compare Prices)
- LED Flashlight
If you need to look in a dark closet for supplies, you will need a flashlight, and LED flashlights work better than the old-fashioned bulbs. A word of caution, though: Never aim an LED flashlight into anyone's eyes, human or animal, and never let children play with them. Read this review of an excellent LED flashlight by David Sweet, former About.com Guide to Camping.
- LED Candles
LED candles are big around my house no matter what time of the year. It should go without saying, never burn real candles with cats in the house. The only candles I use are purely for decoration on the dining room table, and then only during the holidays. Most of the LED candles sold today are also made of wax, and look extremely lifelike. Along with the higher-powered LED Lanterns, they can be useful for helping to light the safe room where you will be staying. (Compare Prices)
- Emergency Radio
One of the best emergency radios I've seen is the Eton American Red Cross FR360 SOLARLINK, which was recommended also by David Sweet. One of the beauties of this radio is that it also can be used to charge your cell phone. Read Review
- Cell Phone
I am almost paranoid about keeping my cell phone charged at all times, and I hope my readers are too. I even have a car charger for both of my cell phones (yes, I have two). During a storm of the magnitude we're contemplating, we'll want to check on friends and loved ones, and we'll also need to be able to call 911 or our veterinarian's office in case of a cat's emergency. So, always keep your cell phone charged, only use it during emergencies during this storm, and have a backup source for charging it. In addition to the Eton SOLARLINK emergency radio mentioned above, there are other emergency chargers for cell phones available at various prices. (Compare Prices")