How to Prepare for Winter Storms


An ice-covered oak tree under a blue sky.

 


We have snow in the forecast this week. Yes, even here in Oklahoma we have an occasional snowstorm. We've had a few big blizzards over the years, and ice storms are a given.


This post was updated in January 2022.


Ice storms are more likely to interrupt our electric service. Heavy ice weighs down the electric wires and cause them to sway in the high winds, often causing them to break and fall.


We've been without power for days at a time in the past; we weathered it well because we were stocked up with food and supplies.


Both snow and ice have an impact on our homestead though. We have livestock to keep warm and fed.


So when there's a storm in the forecast, I go into super-preparedness mode.


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How to prepare for winter storms



Icicles hanging from a branch of an oak tree, after an ice storm.

Stock up on food and water ahead of time


We always have food and water on hand, but if there are any immediate needs we head to town long before the day the weather will hit. 


If you wait until the last minute you're likely to find empty shelves when you get to the store.


Ready.gov recommends having a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day on hand at all times, for both drinking and sanitation purposes. 


I suggest having more. If you have a well, it won't pump water if the electricity goes out. It's a good idea to have extra water on hand to flush toilets.


If you don't have enough water in storage, you can fill up the bathtub before the storm hits. This water can be used for sanitation, cleaning and toilet-flushing.


Make a list and stock up on necessities you might need. While you're in town, top off your gas tank.


Stock up on pet and livestock feed


Likewise, don't wait until the last minute to buy another bag of feed for the goats, or dog and cat food.


We keep at least a week's worth of pet and livestock feed on hand at all times.


Your livestock will need unfrozen water to drink during the storm, just like you do. Keep an axe or hatchet in an accessible place to use to chop ice. You can find some additional ideas (both electric and non-electric) for keeping livestock water from freezing here.



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Before the storm, make sure you have these on hand


  • enough food to last at least a week (we also check pur "power's out" kit in case we need to replace things)
  • livestock feed
  • dog and/or cat food
  • bottled water
  • batteries for flashlights and weather radio
  • fuel for your heat source and generator
  • lamp oil if you have oil lamps
  • candles and matches
  • firewood if you have a wood stove or fireplace


Dead leaves on an oak tree are encased in ice after an ice storm.


At home, do the following:

  • Move hay and feed to a dry place that's easy to access during storms, but out of reach of your livestock.
  • Move snow shovels inside the garage or mudroom where you can reach them easily.
  • Gather water containers that you can use to haul water to livestock if needed. Keep them indoors or in the garage.
  • Fill containers (such as empty canning jars and cleaned-out juice bottles) with water for drinking.
  • Gather the components for a straw box cooker and store them in the house or garage.
  • Locate the camp stove if you have one, alternate heating sources such as propane heater, and check your supply of propane bottles.
  • Provide fresh, clean bedding for animals and poultry.
  • Fill feeders and water troughs.
  • I stash a mallet, axe or hammer under the horses' water trough so I can break the ice if my electric tank heater isn't working. Placing it under the trough will keep it from being buried in the snow.
Ice-encased leaves and icicles hanging from an oak tree after an ice storm.

Before the storm hits

  • Cook something! I like to put a hearty meal in the crockpot, and bake bread before the storm hits.
  • Do the dishes and laundry. If the power goes out, you'll have clean dishes and clothes.
  • Charge your cell phones (if needed, you can recharge them in the car later on). 
  • Charge up an external power bank for your phone. This one is a solar phone charger.
  • Keep your weather radio, flashlights, candles and matches, and other items in a convenient place.

I keep a notebook and pen handy so that I can journal about the storm, what we did, what worked and what didn't, and what I've learned from the storm. 


I reread my notes each winter when storms are in the forecast.


For instance, I've learned from experience that I need to go out several times during a storm to shovel snow away from gates. I can't swing open the gates and tend to the livestock if the snow is deep. I had to climb fences after one storm!


We don't have epic storms every year - or any snow at all some years - so it's easy to forget what impact a large snow or ice storm has on our homestead. My notes keep me from being taken by surprise.


What do you do to prepare before a storm hits?

Juniper trees covered in snow, on snowy ground.

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Three images: branches encased in ice, a snow-covered tree and a snowy landscape.


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Snow on pine trees after a snowstorm - how to prepare for a snowstorm.