I am a native Texan. We do not prepare for Winter Storms. We usually just have to hunker down for a day or two if it sleets or snows an inch, if that. We know to stay off the roads until the sun melts the ice, then carry on. Usually the heat and drought are a bigger threat to Texas. Winter Storm Uri was different and eye-opening. It was a “perfect storm,” hitting the Central US from all directions with hard ice, sleet, and the most snow I’ve ever seen in my life in Texas.
Thousands of people were without power, without water, and without safe transportation to seek medical help if needed. I HATE not being prepared. My husband and I have had many conversations since Uri about what we can/will do differently to be better prepared for ANY natural disaster.
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Here is what we will do moving forward thanks to Winter Storm Uri:
Four-Wheel Drive Vehicle:
We actually just traded in our 2WD yesterday. Done. I hated not being able to go anywhere on the road. I am NOT saying we will be cruising around next time (hopefully never) a winter storm hits, BUT in the event of an emergency, we may have a better chance in a 4WD.
Basic Emergency Kit:
Fill it with bottled water, canned food, can opener, flashlights, batteries, first aid kit, wet wipes, medications, fire extinguisher, storm radio, portable device chargers, etc. You know, everything you have in your MOM-bag all the time! We should have already done this years ago; I know! Every family should have these items ready to go!
It would have been great to have a propane lamp, cooking gear, a propane stove, collapsible sink, paper plates, towels, and cutlery if necessary; Also, a cold-rated sleeping bag for each family member, maybe some MRE’s (meals ready to eat), iodine tablets for cleaning water, or a container for water with a life straw filter. More lanterns, candles, flashlights, and batteries, and maybe a tent and air mattresses.
Space heaters, hand and foot warmers (available in Camping section of places like Dick’s or Academy), heating blankets, heavy blankets, foil blankets, layering clothes such as “long-johns,” beanie hats, snow gloves, warm boots, warm socks, ski-type clothing that is warm and water-proof.
Thankfully we have a gas fireplace with a “fake” log, BUT, right before Uri got really bad, we discovered that the pipe running from our fireplace was disconnected behind the wall, and so was possibly leaking Carbon Monoxide into our home. Yikes! We checked all of our fire and CO alarms, and all were functioning properly, thank goodness; they never went off, even though we had used our fireplace many times prior to Uri. My uncle, Louie Smith, is a licensed air and heating specialist and he said the disconnect could have been caused when we had our roof re-shingled recently; the roofers lift the vent to lay the new shingles, and when they do that, the piping below in the chimney can sometimes disconnect. It is recommended to have your fireplace inspected and cleaned once a year by a licensed professional, as well as any other gas-powered heat sources in your home.
Many people suggested investing in a small generator that can provide enough power to charge devices and run a space heater, or a large, full-sized home generator which are very pricey, but can provide enough power to heat your home. The new Ford F-150 supplies a generator, but they are very expensive as well, about $2-5,000 dollars on top of the cost of the truck.
We have also considered this when many neighbors in our neighborhood were able to still generate 10-20% of their energy from solar energy, despite the cloudiness of the Winter Storm. Tesla also has a new battery for storing solar energy surpluses, a mere $10K on top of the cost of solar panels. This would be a large investment.
Making a Plan:
We have been discussing everything from ice, to fire, to flood, to tornados. Just having a plan in place gives me peace of mind. I want to know how to turn off the water if a pipe busts, how to check our fire alarms regularly, how to hook up a generator safely, and I want to have disaster drills at home with my daughter.
If there is one thing EVERY Texan knows, it is that the weather here is unpredictable, but even this Texan did not expect a hard freeze below zero and 8” of snow.
No one could have predicted Winter Storm Uri. But we can learn from it.