How to survive a winter storm with no power

broken-tree-branchesMAKING IT THROUGH THE STORM


While the ice storm that we had this week in Ontario created quite a sight to see, sparkling trees covered in glistening ice and an ice covering over everything, this Winter Wonderland also came with a lot of destruction, inconveniences for many and sadly a couple of deaths.

With hundreds of thousands of people losing their power there are still a number of people who are waiting for theirs to come back on, 48 hours or more after the storm while others enjoyed Christmas Day in the warmth of their homes.

Being prepared for an extended power outage can make getting through those long, cold days less of a struggle. The recent cold snap hasn’t helped the situation.


Staying Warm


Having no power means no heat in your home. Staying warm will be a challenge if you are not prepared. We had a little notice that this storm was coming and I have to admit I was not as prepared as I could have been.

Beyond having lots of blankets and warm sweaters to put on, seeking out warming stations that many cities provided would have been an option if our power had stayed off for more than the 3 hours it was off.

These warming stations provide you with not only a place to escape the cold but most also offered some hot beverages to warm you up.




If you own a generator or choose to purchase one remember that anything that burns fuel should have adequate ventilation.

Using a barbecue indoors to stay warm, whether it is a propane barbecue or charcoal is not a good idea.

When you are trying to keep your house warm you are unlikely to open any windows and therefore your home is likely sealed air tight.

Burning propane or a gas-powered generator inside your home or even your garage will give off carbon monoxide and being in an air sealed home it will eat up all the oxygen in your home.

Remember carbon monoxide is a silent killer, being odourless unless you have a carbon monoxide detector you will not know it is in your home.

Carbon monoxide detectors also will not work if the power is out unless they have a back up battery which will only work as long the battery has a charge.




In preparation for a storm where the power may go off, having a full tank of gas in your car may be of great benefit to you. It may not be the most economical approach but sitting in your car (not inside a garage) may be an option to seek out some warmth.

Your car can also be used to charge a cell phone if you own a car charger. Being able to get updates as to the progression of the storm or when your power is expected to be back on is valuable information to have.

Having little or no gas in your vehicle won’t get you very far as if the power is out gas stations will likely have no power either.




A major concern for people when their power goes out is how are they going to keep all the food in their fridge and freezer from going bad.

Keeping your fridge and freezer closed as much as possible will help to keep your food cold but also know that the contents in a full freezer will stay frozen for approximately 48 hours and a half full freezer for approximately 24 hours.

During a winter storm moving your food to your garage or on a balcony in baskets, boxes or whatever you chose to put it in is an option.

There was no shortage of ice around during this latest storm so collecting some ice from outside and packing it in your freezer and fridge would also help to keep your food from spoiling.




The elderly may not be able to deal with a power outage very well so do your elderly neighbours a favour and check in to make sure that they are okay. 2013 brought on two major power outages and from both I learned that even though I live next door to my neighbours we are on separate power grids.

I lost power for 3 hours this past week where as both my neighbours lost power for well over 24 hours.

This may happen in your area as well so check in with your neighbours to see if they have power or if you have power and they don’t, offer them into your home for warmth or to use your outlets to charge a cell phone.

Though it may not feel like you are in Florida, having more people in a room will help to keep a room slightly warmer so get to know your neighbours and help each other out.




In the winter it is always a good idea to make sure that all outdoor plumbing lines are drained and that the water is turned off.

During a power outage in the winter pipes freezing may be a concern. If you have chosen to leave your home and either stay with a friend, book a hotel room or visit a local warming station consider turning your water off completely to avoid pipes freezing and bursting within your home.

Wrapping any exposed pipes with insulation sleeves may help as well.


Damage to your property



The weight of ice building up on tree branches can cause many branches to break and fall on your home, fence or your car.

Having a good homeowners insurance policy, damage to your home or property caused by a weather event will most likely be covered.

The removal of a tree or branch that has fallen without causing damage will likely be at your expense to have removed.

One thing I experienced myself this past week was large chunks of ice falling off overhead power lines. Luckily the massive piece of ice that fell on my car did not cause any damage but if it had, having a comprehensive car insurance policy my insurance company would have paid to have any damages repaired.

Know what your insurance policy covers and possibly seek out a new one if you feel your current policy is inadequate in these situations.

Surviving and staying warm during a power outage, especially one that may go on for days on end will be a challenge but can be a little easier to manage if you are prepared ahead of time.

Remember you are not alone and working as a team with others around you will make getting through these long, cold days more bearable.

What other tips can you suggest for surviving a power outage?



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  1. In North Carolina we have outages due to hurricanes and ice storms. A 20lb gas grill tank with a Buddy Heater really works and no sign of carbon monoxide. Also get a Coleman distribution tree and Coleman gas stove. Heat and hot food. Also light on top.
    Whole thing less than 150 dollars and should last close to a week then another tank of gas. A Buddy heater 9000 BTU will last 21/2 days on 20lb of gas. Heated a bathroom and two bedrooms to 65F while freezing outside. Woodstoves are great. Freeze water ahead of time and put in fridge, also make casseroles ahead and heat up for food.

  2. I am not sure where I got this tip but I fill two litre plastic pop bottles with water and free them. I use them to keep the freezer full so that it does not run as much and if we have a power outage it keeps the freezer cold. They came in handy when my fridge was starting to fail and we were waiting for a new one.

  3. My friend in Toronto told me he was without power for a few days, luckily they were able to stay with some friends who still had it. He ended up not being able to come home for the holidays because of the storm. A few years back I was without power for almost a week but was able to go to my folks house. Would have been much tougher if I hadn’t had family to lean on.

  4. Here in St Marys we just missed the worst of the storm!! The older woman next door has two daughters that both live just outside of town on rural properties and they both had issues with ice that we didn’t in town. My Dad in town said his power was out but not for long.
    One other thing that comes to mind in this age of cell phones and cordless phones is that your cordless will go out in a power failure, so I would want to have at least one phone in the house that has a cord to it. The wireless signal needs power to send that signal.
    Those in the country like yourself know that if you have a well and the power goes out you don’t have running water either. No power to run the well pump!
    A generator sounds like an idea for some, like those in the country but I’d have to think long and hard about one in town. It would depend on just how much an issue power failures are. If you are in a area that gets a lot of outages it might be worth it. My thought for the co2 detector would be to have a battery back up in the unit and maybe check/change the battery in it on the same plan as the smoke detectors, twice a year when the time change kicks in.
    We have always had candles and flashlights around just in case. The big reason here tends to be the older trees around and a strong wind more so than ice. That and the odd squirrel getting itself fried on a line or transformer. I have a magnet on the fridge with the number for the local hydro company to let them know what’s out when it happens.
    Your point about a neighbour being on a different line holds here as we are on the Wellington St line but the little duplex next to us is on the Church St line. So we may not have power but they do or the other way, just depends on the reason for the outage.
    Great article Katrina!!!!! Glad you and the kids made it through the storm OK!!!!

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