Tom Kerr writing on winter weather…
As Henry David Thoreau observed at Walden Pond, firewood warms you twice. Once when you get a good workout while splitting it, and again when you burn it in your fireplace or woodstove.
I’ve heated with wood for about 25 years. But right now I’m especially glad it warms so well. Where I live – and maybe where you are, too – this is the coldest January in 100 years.
When they call it a “winter weather bomb,” you know that can’t be good.
A rare, frigid convergence of forces collides in the sky…
Next thing you know, your car is skidding on ice or buried in snow. You’ll get frostbite while digging it out, if you’re not careful.
On top of that, your utility bills skyrocket.
A relative emailed from Florida. He booked a vacation there to escape the cold…but now wishes he’d packed a down jacket and fleece-lined gloves.
Back home in the north, his neighbors are concerned that icicles may break loose from the roof and injure them as they shovel the walkway.
But down in the Sunshine State, he’s hoping a frozen giant iguana doesn’t knock him on the head…because they are dropping from trees like coconuts.
The iguanas are cold-blooded creatures so they will probably thaw out and be good as new…once the temperatures regain some sanity.
Humans can’t perform that death-defying feat, which is why this kind of harsh, unexpected weather event can quickly turn into a life-threatening emergency.
You should always have on hand enough food, water, and necessary medicines…for you, your family, and your pets…to sustain you for at least 72 hours.
Solar-powered lanterns are a great option, too. They fully charge in one sunny day, and will illuminate a room for about eight continuous hours.
It’s also wise to keep some cash in a safe place at home. If the electricity goes out, ATM machines and credit card terminals in town may be inoperable.
A gas-powered generator can serve as a good backup to keep your household going during an outage. But you need to carefully store the fuel and keep the unit outdoors, so you don’t breathe its toxic fumes. You’ll want it outside anyway, since they tend to be obnoxiously loud.
A more expensive, but much cleaner and safer option, is a battery-powered backup generator. It will operate silently, you can use it indoors, and the larger models generate enough wattage to power not just small devices, but refrigerators, too.
Some of the innovative lithium battery generators can be charged and recharged using a wall outlet, the 12-volt outlet in a vehicle, or solar panels.
But even when the power is still on and you feel safe and sound, a conventional furnace can be a hazard to your health. If it develops a leak, odorless and potentially deadly carbon monoxide can enter your home’s ductwork. Every winter people die in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning.
I narrowly escaped that fate myself one year.
Luckily, I woke up and stumbled toward fresh air just in time. The first responders told me it was a wonder I survived.
So, have your heating system checked out by a professional every season, and install carbon monoxide sensor alarms in your home.
You may not be able to predict when the next weather bomb will detonate. But you can be safer, healthier, and more stress-free and comfortable. All it takes is a small amount of preparation now to ensure that you are much more self-reliant in the future.
As General George Patton said, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”
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