This has been one of the wackiest winters for weather in recent memory. It's often been warmer on the East Coast than in California; now, though, a heatwave is hitting Los Angeles, and a wicked snow storm is set to slam the Northeast and Atlantic regions. So: How should you prepare for Winter Storm Stella? While you may have been ready to put away your cold-weather gear, it seems winter is getting one last gasp before the spring equinox on March 20, and getting caught unprepared can leave you in the dark — literally.
Last week, a vicious wind storm swept across the Midwest, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power. My cousin, who lives in the Detroit area, wasn't prepared for the powerful storm, and she paid the price: She came home from a hot yoga class planning to take a shower and then head out to meet some friends. But when she arrived back at her apartment, the power was out, and she didn't have candles or a flashlight. What began as a minor inconvenience turned into a five-day stretch that had her bunking at a friend's house so she could shower and go to work.
While I live in Los Angeles now, I grew up in Ohio, and I lived in Maine for nine years, so the perils of winter weather are familiar to me. It's always good to have a plan about what you will if a winter storm wreaks havoc, as Stella threatens to do. Here are 10 ways to prepare for winter-storm Stella so you're not left out in the cold.
1Have A Plan
It's always good to have a disaster plan. In Los Angeles it's making sure you have an earthquake kit. For those in the path of Winter Storm Stella, a disaster kit is equally important. Many people don't think to stock up on disaster supplies until they're in the middle of a crisis. You've likely seen those news reports of shoppers scrambling at the supermarket for bottled water, batteries, and non-perishable food items.
Your kit should include — you guessed it — fresh water, food you don't need to cook, flashlights, candles, flares, and blankets. If you get caught without power for a few days during the winter you're going to be cold. Stock up on hand warmers, dress in layers, close off the rooms you're not using, huddle together to harness body heat, and don't forget to keep your head, hands, and feet covered, as this is how most heat leaves your body.
2Get An Old-Fashioned Radio
We're so reliant on technology these days that you likely don't own some of the things that were once household staples. Get a radio that runs on batteries so you can stay on top of weather reports, power outages, and other news during Winter Storm Stella.
Your phone will eventually die, and if you're without power you're going to need another way to stay up-to-date that doesn't include relying on carrier pigeons.
There's nothing worse than being stranded away from home during a winter storm. Follow the weather forecast closely, and make sure you're safe at home when Winter Storm Stella hits.
I've had some nail-biting drives home during winter storms over the years because I foolishly decided to go somewhere when I knew a storm was coming. Luckily I made it home safe each time, but not everyone is that lucky. Once you're stocked up with supplies, stay home, and let it snow.
4Check Your Flight Before Heading To The Airport
The only thing worse than being unprepared for a storm at home is being trapped at the airport during a storm. If you have plans to fly over the next few days, sign up for text alerts from your airline, or check online or by phone to be sure your flight isn't cancelled before heading to the airport.
When I lived in Maine, a friend and I both flew home to the Midwest for the holidays during a winter storm. During a layover in Cincinnati I watched helplessly as all of the flight updates flipped to "cancelled." I was lucky enough to grab the last flight out before the airport closed. My friend was not so lucky. She spent three days in the airport sleeping on the floor. There's nothing to drive you to the brink of madness like being trapped in an airport without food, or a bed.
Stay ahead of the game during Stella and make sure your flight is still on before leaving home.
5Have Cash On Hand
Thanks to our mostly cash-free society, nine times out of 10 I don't have any cash on me. Big mistake. During a storm, if power goes out and you need supplies, many stores will only be able to accept cash.
I worked at a bar during college, and we lost power more than once. In some cases the weather was so bad that customers could not leave. We served food and drinks by candlelight, and guess what, we could only accept cash.
Head to the ATM for some cold, hard cash before you hunker down for winter-storm stella.
6Have a Stella Storm Slumber Party
Who has the best storm party pad? Get on the phone with your friends and pool your resources. Decide who has the best place to crash during Winter Storm Stella, and plan accordingly. Have everyone bring water, another type of drink, a non-perishable food item, a blanket, a flashlight, and a board game.
This is a great way to wait out the storm, stay fed and hydrated, and ensure you have enough body heat to stay warm. This will also prevent you from losing your mind with boredom if the storm drags on for a few days.
7Don't Forget About Your Pets
If you have pets, remember to stock on food and fresh water for your furry friends too. Please don't leave your pets outside during the storm. If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for them.
Additionally, if you lose power during Winter Storm Stella, and have to stay with a friend, ask if your four-legged family members can come too. If you need to head to a hotel, make sure it's a pet friendly place.
8Don't Forget The Shovels And Salt
Once Winter Storm Stella is over, you'll need to dig yourself out. Make sure you have a shovel and some rock salt. If you don't have salt, cat litter works too. I have not-so-fond memories of spending hours shoveling my car out of the driveway in Maine.
In some cases, the snow completely covered my car so I literally couldn't see it. I can't imagine what I would have done in this situation without a shovel — perhaps I would have had to wait for spring thaw.
9Know The Parking Rules of Your City
Make sure you know the rules of the city and state where you'll be riding out Winter Storm Stella. In Maine we had what was called a "parking ban." During storms tall buildings with signs on top would flash the words "parking ban" and the time the ban went into effect. This meant that every car had to be off the street during the designated time. For those without parking, city garages and parking lots were opened so people could park their cars.
Those who didn't heed the warning woke up the next morning to find their cars had been towed, which — take it from me — is never fun.
10Check On Your Neighbors
Do you have neighbors who are elderly, or homebound? It's a great idea to check on them pre-storm to make sure they have everything they need to safely endure Winter Storm Stella. If they don't, ask how you can help. Make sure to check on them once the storm is over too. After all, we're all in this together, right?
A little preparation can be the difference between a winter storm inconvenience and a winter storm disaster. And, after it's all over, you can male snow angels, go sledding, skiing, and build a snowman. I'll be here in L.A. sweating in the 90-degree weather.