“These tips are based on my growing up in New England and also having lived in Maine and Utah, and having experienced multiple days of power outages in extreme cold.”
– Jean S.

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How to survive power outages during extreme cold

Jean S.

These are my tips for people in TX and other places where they don’t normally have power outages in extremely cold weather and no experience with that and may not know what to do.

These tips are based on my growing up in New England and also having lived in Maine and Utah, and having experienced multiple days of power outages in extreme cold. A number of houses I lived in either were poorly insulated and, in some cases, not all parts of the house had heat.

1. Check to see if any of your doors have a space at the bottom where cold air is coming in. If so, take a towel and roll it up lengthwise and put it on the floor pushing it against the door.

2. Check to see if you get drafts from any of your windows. If so, take some old papers (newspaper, junk mail, etc.) fold them up and stuff the cracks with paper. If you have no paper but have rags that will work also.

3. If you have a generator be sure to read and follow all requirements for ventilation – you can get killed otherwise. Do NOT use anything like a grill indoors. Go outside if you must and use it out there in a sheltered area for cooking.

4. Let all your faucets drip a bit to try to avoid having your pipes burst. If you have any hay bails you can also put these around the bottom of your house.

5. Consider closing up part of your house and only use a few rooms (preferably interior rooms or those with the fewest windows, since you lose a lot of heat from the windows).

6. Sometimes if you have natural gas you can still get hot water and your stove and oven may work even when the power is out. If that is the case do the following:

a. Take a hot bath daily, before bundling up for bed. This will keep your core warmer. (Notice that she says IF you have natural gas. I don’t.)
b. Make hot meals like soup and drink hot drinks. (Hard to do without natural gas.)
c. Avoid alcohol if at all possible as that may make you feel like you are warmer but actually makes your core colder.
d. Washing your dishes by hand is good to warm up your hands.
e. Consider making something like Boston baked beans from scratch at night. They need to cook in the oven at low heat (250-300 degrees) for 8 hours and not only taste good… they warm up the house a bit and smell heavenly! ((Again, hard to do without natural gas.)

7. Get out all your winter clothing items and layer up. Wear a hat and shoes or boots even if you normally go barefoot as you lose a lot of heat from your head and extremities. Wear multiple pairs of socks to bed and multiple pairs of sleepwear. You can wear a winter coat indoors during the day or spread it out on your bed for extra warmth at night.

8. If you have any sleeping bags crawl into one at night in your bed, covered by your other bedding.

9. Cover your head at night (best if you leave a bit of a breathing hole but you’ll still keep warmer than keeping your whole head out).

10. If anyone in your household sews, check their fabric stash for large pieces of polartec/fleece (the absolute best at keeping your warm), wool, or unused quilt inserts to use as extra blankets.

11. If you have multiple people in your family…. skip the social distance idea (unless someone actually is sick), and consider bundling up together at night. Warning: don’t do that with a baby though as some people have accidentally rolled over on their baby and suffocated them. Babies do well however in a sleeping bag by themselves or something similar (I had my son sleeping in an old fur coat I got at a thrift store when we were living in a tent.)

12. Got a dog? Let him/her come sleep with you in your bed… even if you don’t normally.

13. If you have young kids, try to make a game out of it… pretend you are camping indoors, or are pioneers, cowboys, or Indians. If you know your local history it may give you other ideas how to keep warm. Remember people lived without central heat for generations and most did not freeze to death in their house. For example, I once visited Plymouth Plantations (in MA) on a very cold raw day – noticed that the Pilgrims houses were all cold and uncomfortable despite having large fireplaces. Outside the walled town there was a reproduction Massasoit Indian village complete with long house… and they were having story telling there. It was toasty, comfortable and warm. They only had a small hole in the roof for opening for smoke from the fire and one door with a deerskin flap they closed. Multiple families lived together that way and slept on wood platforms with furs, so they were off the floor. It was a LOT more comfortable that the housing the Pilgrims lived in!

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February 17, 2021 at 02:04PM