How to Prepare for an Ice Storm
If you would like to skip right to the action list, then scroll down to the Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist, below the intro.
The Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 &
the Ice Storm of 2013
Do you remember the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 or the Ice Storm of 2013?
If not, these ice storms are worth searching for online and checking out some of the incredible photos.
No one expected it to be that bad and few took basic steps to prepare or went through their Ice Storm Preparedness Checklist first.
Imagine waking up to 2 - 5 inches (12+ cm) of ice over top of your house, car and entire community?
The power is out (for weeks for many people), the heat is off, the phone lines and internet are down, and you can not even get out of your house because the door is frozen shut from the outside. On top of this, if you had a medical emergency and needed an ambulance, they can not get to you because the streets are frozen solid.
These were real scenarios that happened in North America not long ago ago. It could happen again. Unfortunately, many people died or had very negative consequences as a result. I suspect many of these deaths and challenges were avoidable if people were better prepared.
As I write this on April 14, 2018, there is the potential of another significant Ontario ice storm hitting a similar area. At this point, there is no reason to suspect it will be anything like 1998, but you never know, and a storm like this will strike again eventually.
As I researched government, NGO and other sites on ice storm preparedness, I realized a lot of the information out there already is very basic and common sense. I read things such as, don't go outside, don't drive, stock up on food and water, get a flashlight, etc.
That is all good advice, but so many important considerations are missing. That is why I wrote this post, Ice Storms, a Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist.
I hope you enjoy and find it useful. So let us learn from the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 AND how to prepare for ice storms. Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments at the bottom of the page!
Winter Ice Storm Preparedness Checklist
General Ice Storm Tips:
1) Don't forget all the basics, Most People do!
If the power went out right now, do you know where your flashlight is? How much life is left in the batteries?
What if the water stopped running for a week, do you have enough in storage? And how will you use your toilet without running water?
If you want to ensure you have all the basics covered consider taking our fun online training course, Survive the Storms. It will help you get the essentials in place fast and customize the plans and gear to your unique situation. Check out the trailer!
2) Save your freezer items and store water at the same time!
If you think the water could be out for more than 24hours fill ziplock bags with water and filling your freezer with them.
The dead air space in your freezer will heat up the quickest and cause things to start to melt and eventually spoil. Filling the dead air space with homemade bags of ice will keep your freezer cold much longer and prevent food spoilage a little longer.
In an extended blackout/emergency, these bags can also be melted for drinking water.
3) Have a few escape tools in your house in case the ice buries you inside.
A crowbar, axe, and a chiseling device may be useful to have on hand and accessible inside your home. Having a pair of safety glasses and heavy-duty leather work gloves in your kit is very useful as well.
4) Proactively prune trees around your house, driveway, and utility lines
Look for tree limbs that could cause damage to wires, your car/house or other infrastructure if they cracked under the weight of ice. Consider pruning them now.
Some species of trees are more prone to breaking under the weight of ice than others.
This is where having good naturalist skills and a connection with nature can really be useful in navigating extreme weather and potential emergencies.
For example, Manitoba Maple, Willow species & Poplars species tend to shed branches easily if weighed down by ice. They have relatively soft wood and are common culprits for taking out wires and breaking windows with fallen branches.
Also consider where ice could slide off your roof and cause damage. Our friends car had significant damage from a smaller Ontario ice storm in her driveway this winter from ice sliding off of the roof.
During the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 and the Ice Storm of 2013, Manitoba Maples were responsible for ALOT of lost power and damage.
On the other hand, species like Oak and Sugar Maple have quite strong and hardwood and are less likely to break under the weight of ice.
5) Call friends and family before the power goes out
Check in and let them know you are prepared and ready. Check that they have gone through their Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist and know how to stay safe during ice storms.
Consider making a family emergency communications plan for when the power goes down. We have a free template for this over on our Changing World Community Page.
The last stress you need during a storm is to be worrying about others or knowing others are worried about you. Make sure your close friends and family are ready to go and share this post with them! #IceStorm #GetPrepared
6) Prevent Carbon monoxide poisoning as it kills many people during ice storms.
This can be a real issue if the power is still on and any of the off-gassing vents get blocked by ice.
Know where different appliances such as your furnace, wood stove, backup generator and clothes dryer vent out of the house. Make sure the openings of these do not get blocked with ice and cause fumes to travel back into the house.
If the power goes out, make sure you turn off anything that runs on gas or propane. If they get damaged while the power is out (from ice) then come back on suddenly, you may not realize they are damaged. This poses the risk of explosions, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
This was another leading cause of deaths during the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 and Ice Storm of 2013.
7) Prevent Slipping Injuries
Fill up a few pails with sand or buy a couple of bags of sand/salt mix from the hardware or garden store.
Consider getting slide on crampons that slip overtop of your boots in case you have to travel outside. These are a great thing to keep in a car emergency kit and are nice to have for winter hikes and enjoyment in general.
Crampons are small spikes on the bottom of your boots that give you better traction and prevent slipping and falling. You can often get these at the local outdoors store or you can order a pair online. It is kind of like putting chains on your tires.
8) Drain your water pipes if you think the power could be out for a while.
If it is possible that it may drop below freezing in your home, consider draining all your pipes so they are not damaged and do not burst if they freeze.
9) Fill your bathtub, sinks and kitchen pots with water before the power goes out.
If you pour approximately a gallon of water into the toilet, after you have gone, the pressure of this water being poured in quickly should manually flush the toilet. Try a practice run before the power goes out with a clean toilet bowl in case it take a bit of practice to get the technique down.
This stored water can also be used for drinking, hygiene and cleaning. If you need to drink it make sure you purify it first by boiling or using a water filtering device.
We highly recommend Berky Water Filters that remove bacteria, viruses, and event many heavy metals and chemicals. I would not live somewhere without one. Water is Life!
10) Prevent Fires & Explosions
Turn off and unplug electrical appliances to prevent a power surge when the power comes back on. Also, turn off gas and propane. If these get damaged by the ice storm, and you do not realize it, they could cause a severe accident such as an explosion or fire when the power comes back on come back on.
If you use candles during a power outage, put them inside a mason jar or suitable non flammable container that does not tip over easily. Don't leave them unattended. Fires started by candles are common hazard during power outage.
BONUS) Get a hand crank radio with the NOAA Weather Band & AM/FM radio.
This allows you to listen to the news while hunkering down without power or wifi. It is helpful to get an idea of the scope of the storm and when the power will be back on again as well as listen for any emergency alerts that could impact your families safety.
Having a backup USB charger for your phone is an excellent idea as well. Make sure the backup charger is fully charged before the power goes out!
I hope you enjoyed this winter storm preparedness checklist.
Please share your thoughts and your own tips in the comments below so we can all learn from each other!
And don't forget to check out:
Preparing For Winter Storms & Extreme Cold Part 1 - Lessons from Nature
Preparing For Winter Storms & Extreme Cold Part 2 - Check List
And let's remember to learn from the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 and the Ice Storm of 2013. Have you gone through your Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist? Ice Storms do happen!
I loved reading the list one more time, and noted how much more I got out of it.
I suggest re-organizing the steps so that “fill the bathtub” is after “drain the pipes”. We are interesting creatures the we are in a hurry (panic).
For “drain the pipes”, I suggest that folks familiarize themselves with the main water valve that comes into the house so that shutting it off will not be onerous (e.g. where is it?, do we have to move all of this stuff to get at it?). Many folks may get panicky if they have never drained the pipes before. All they really need to know is 1. shut off the source, and 2. open the taps. The main benefit is taking the pressure off the lines, and creating even a bit more space for expansion if freezing waste occur. This act alone will allow days of grace before freezing, especially since “freezing weather” conditions are relatively moderate cold temperatures.
I use wood ash for traction on the ice. It is effective immediately, and good for the plants eventually. I know that wood ash is not readily accessible to many folks, but it could be a smaller bucket (with lid and labelled) that is stored wth the rest of the emergency supplies.
Another observation that I’ve made is that IF it snows FIRST, with the chance of freezing rain, I don’t clean the snow off the truck unless I have to. The huge benefit is that the vehicle is so much easier to clear of ice because it comes off with the snow cushion under it.
With a bit of humour, I have a steel roof on the house, and with the “avalanches” of ice coming off the roof yesterday, I thought that a giant was taking the building apart; which may lead into another consideration for folks regarding where they park their vehicles, or leave items (BBQ;s, shovels, snowblowers, etc.) near the house overhang.
I greatly appreciate how you raise my awareness about these possibilities, and I get to assess all kinds of ‘fun’ scenarios over time! Thanks.
Hey Bill, Thanks for your reply and awesome upgrades. Maybe I’ll have to do a 2.0 upgrade to the post with a bit of your wisdom and suggestions thrown in. Glad your enjoying the posts as well.
We were without power for 8 hours recently due to ice bringing down wires in our area. It was a trial run for sure. A couple of things I did (and largely influenced by you Chris) was to anticipate the power going out before it did. I boiled water and filled a few thermos containers. I also recommend having a back up battery for your cell phone and have it charged so if your phone gets low you can recharge it. It was cold and dark in the house but we had blankets, tea and candles so we were fine. We were ready with the essentials for several days if needed. I think being prepared is such an important step. It is winter in Canada. Anything can happen.
I’d like to have a print version of this. Thanks!
Thanks for the suggestion Chrissy. We have printable documents & summaries for a number of other topics. I will look into making one for Ice Storms as well. You can access all our others by joining our free community page here – https://changingworld.mn.co/