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Apr 14

​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.

​Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 & Ice Storm of 2013

Do you remember the Montreal Ice Storm of 1998 or the Ice Storm of 2013? If you do not or were not even born yet, ​these ice storms are worth searching for online. Check out some of the incredible photos, I bet you have never seen anything like it. No one expected it to be that bad and few went through their Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist first.

​The short of it is, eastern Canada, parts of the eastern United States, Quebec and Ontario had an ice storm like none other. ​​

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, even if you had a medical emergency and needed an ambulance, they can not get to you because the streets are frozen solid. 

​Th​ese ice storms were real scenarios that happened in North America a little over 20 years ago. And it could happen again. Ontario ice storms do happen and they can happen across the entire Northern Hemishpere. 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 Storm Preparedness Checklist

General Ice Storm Tips:

​1) Take a quick scan around the perimeter of your property at the trees and consider moving your car or doing some quick pruning.

Look for 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. Certain species are also 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. 

​2) Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a real issue if the power is still on and any of the off-gassing vents get blocked by ice.

​Know where your different appliances such as your furnace, wood stove, backup generator and clothes dryer vent out of the house. Make sure the opening 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 run 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. 

​3) Have a few escape tools in your house in case the ice gets really thick and you need to escape your own house.A crowbar 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) Fill up a few pails with sand or buy a couple of bags from the hardware or garden store.After the storm, these can be used to help melt the ice and make pathways safer for travel. You can also get a big bag of salt. We mix a small amount of salt into our sand bucket to save on expenses and be more environmentally friendly.

​5) Call friends and family before the power goes out to check in and let them know you are prepared and ready. Check that they have they gone through their Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist and know how to stay safe during ice storms.

​6) Remember to leave the windshield wipers up on your car. It will be way easier to scrape the ice off the windshield afterward. 

​7) Consider buying crampons that slip over your boots. Crampons are small spike o the bottom of your boots that prevent slipping and falling. I suspect you could get these at the local outdoors store and you can order a pair online. It is kind of like putting chains on your tires.

​8) Do not forget all the basics

Get a kit together with items such as an emergency flashlight with extra batteries, candles, extra food, and water, etc. There is a ton of information on basic emergency kits already out there which is why I chose to write about these tips instead. This kit can be used for a lot more than just ice storms. Search “Basic Emergency Kit” or “Ice Storm Preparedness” of “Winter Storm Preparedness Checklist”.

​9) Read my other post on Winter Storm ​Preparedness & Lessons From Nature in Being Cold Resilient.

​Preparing For Winter Storms & Extreme Cold Part 1 – Lessons from Nature

​Preparing For Winter Storms & Extreme Cold Part 2 – Check List

Tips for when the power goes out during Ice Storms:

​10) 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.

11) 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.  If this water is clean, it can also be used for drinking or hygiene and cleaning.

​12) ​If you think the power could go out for more than 48hrs, consider filling 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.

​13) 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.

​14) One great piece of gear is a hand crank radio with the NOAA Weather Band & AM/FM radio. I bought mine at an electronics store for around $50. This allows me to listen to the news while hunkering down without power. It is helpful to get an idea of the scope of the storm and when the power will be back on again. 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!

About the Author

Chris Gilmour is the creator of ChangingWorldProject.com He has a diverse background in the study of ecology, teaching traditional wilderness & urban survival, consulting in modern-day emergency and disaster preparedness and has a passion for self-reliance such as growing food and the martial arts.

  • Bill Clarke says:

    Hi Chris,
    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.
    Regards,
    Bill Clarke

    • Chris Gilmour says:

      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.

      Cheers,
      Chris

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