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Preparedness and Survival During a Snowstorm

“In tropical countries, people prefer winters to summer as they provide them the much-needed relief from the scorching heat of the sun, heavy humidity during the monsoon season and constant sweating. But when it comes to the cold regions of the world, one cannot just wait comfortably for the winters to set in. Winter in such places that suffer at the hands of its extremities requires preparation. It takes a good look to identify places covered in layers of snow, places that some people call home.

Russia experiences one of the coldest winters in the world. Verkhoyansk in Russia, a place where people carve out a living in the Siberian wilderness experiences winter temperatures that are as low as minus 50.4 degrees Fahrenheit. It recorded an all-time low temperature in the year 1982. During the winters, the residents pile on huge fur hats and coats. They prefer staying indoors during the times it gets unbearably cold. Oymyakon, another village in Russia is said to be the coldest location in the Northern Hemisphere. In the year 1933 it recorded a temperature as low as minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The world’s coldest temperature, outside of Antarctica was in the basin of Yana River. Yana River is close to Yakutsk, a city in Russia which is also famous as the coldest city in the world. This place was in the news in the year 2008 when there were two pipe bursts in the nearby villages. These pipe bursts caused the inhabitants to huddle together for warmth around makeshift wood stoves. Yakutsk and the areas nearby are so cold that when people run to other villages for restocking their supplies they do not turn off their engines for the duration of two-week trips.

Hell, a village situated in Norway experiences sub-arctic temperatures. It is frozen and covered with snow for one-third part of a year that lasts from December to March. International Falls, a place home to approximately 6000 inhabitants is in Minn. It lies on the border of the United States and Canada. It is one of the coldest places in the contagious United States. There are more than 60 nights in a year when the level of mercury hits a zero. The area gets a lot of snowfall. There is approximately 65.5 inches of snowfall, annually. International Falls is so cold that it has rightfully earned the title of the “”Icebox of the Nation””.

With severe winters comes the possibility of cold waves, snow storms, and winter storms. There have been several incidents in the history of the world where major cold waves and snow storms have occurred in different regions of the world. They have broken all records and caused destruction and loss of life and property on a massive scale. People who live in a cold chilly climate are well aware of what a snowstorm is and with what intensity it can disrupt normal lives. Sometimes the weather forecast makes sure that everyone is well aware of an impending snowstorm but most of the times, they catch everyone off guard. Such circumstances occur in regions that experience extreme winter climate.

Snowstorms and blizzards lead to heavy snowfall accompanied by strong hurricane forced winds. Visibility reduces to zero, and it becomes impossible to step out of the house in such weather. All sorts of communication and transport get uprooted, and one cannot expect help in terms of anything from anyone, not even the rescue teams unless there is an improvement in the weather. In 1993, one such elemental blast of pure winter occurred in the Eastern United States. It is regarded as the “”Storm of the Century“” or the ’93 Super Storm. This super blizzard opened the floodgates of snow and the wind on a scale that was so large that it surpassed all others in history. There was snowfall on a huge scale from eastern Canada to Alabama. Roughly half of the United States population was affected by the storm. At places, there were more than 50 inches of snow and wind speeds reached between 70 to 100 mph.

In 2008, there was a snow storm in Lhunze County, a place in Tibet. Tibet is in the mountains and the winter temperatures there at times drop shockingly low. During this snowstorm, there were as much as 59 inches of snow covering the ground. In some villages, there was uninterrupted snowfall that lasted for 36 hours straight that led to the accumulation of nearly 5 to 6 feet of snow on the ground. The heavy accumulation of snow became the cause of the collapse of many buildings and loss of many lives. All type of transport was closed as there was nothing but snow all around. Rescue teams and crews had to struggle for days at a stretch to clear the snow to get food and water to people who were trapped in the storm.

Incidents, as mentioned above, are something that people should be ready for, especially if they live in a place that has had a history of similar snow storms and winter storms. Even if they haven’t had the history but the place they live in has extreme winters then they should prepare themselves for such a situation because most of the times destruction doesn’t knock on the door. Even a historical blizzard in the beginning may give out the indications of a light snowfall before it turns into a monstrous snow storm.

Here are some tips on how you should prepare for winters, long before it sets in or for a winter storm if you have received a warning in advance.

  1. Family Communication Plan– There are chances that you may not be with your family when the snow storm occurs. Therefore, it is important to plan and decide beforehand that if the family is not together then how the members will contact one another and how will they get back together. It is also important to discuss what to in case of an emergency.
  1. Minimize Travel– It is important to understand the importance of staying together with one’s family in case of such a disaster. Staying at home doesn’t just act as a booster but also keeps you safe from the cold outside. Thus, you must try to minimize your trips outside of the house as much as you can if a snow storm is about to occur. If you do go outside then make sure you carry disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
  1. Pets– If you have pets or companion animals then bring them inside during the winter. If you have other animals or livestock, then move them to a sheltered place that has drinking water that is not frozen.
  1. Winterize your Homes– To ensure that your supplies last longer in the winters or during a snow storm it is imperative that you winterize your home. You can do this by

– Insulating your walls and attics

– Insulating the windows by covering them with plastic or installing storm windows in their place.

– Repair any roof leaks and clean all the gutters of the house

– If there are long tree branches, that are heavy and bendy and can fall on the house or any other structure then cut them off

– Insulate pipes with newspapers and plastics. Allow the taps to drip a little during the storm to avoid freezing because even a drop of running water prevents pipes from freezing.

– Fire Extinguishers: As the temperature outside falls considerably people switch to alternate sources of heating without realizing the repercussions. At times, there is unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. So keep a fire extinguisher handy and make sure that everyone in the house knows how to use it.

  1. Emergency Kit– Having adequate items in your emergency kit is the first step towards preparing for a severe winter. Here is a list of what you should have in your emergency kit:

– Rock Salt: You should stack heavy amounts of rock salt in it. Rock salt helps in melting ice.

– First aid kit: There can be any unwanted injuries, and it may not be possible to step out of the house for a long time. So make sure the first aid kit has sufficient sterile bandages, antibiotic ointment, pain killers and disinfectants

– Flashlight and Batteries: Keep at least two to three flashlights with fresh batteries as you may need them due to the power cut off caused by the storm

– Prescription Medications

– Portable cell phone charger

– Sand: It will help in improving traction

– Snow Shovels and other snow removal equipment for removing snow

– Heating Fuel: You should store a lot of heating fuel as you start preparing for a winter storm. The reason for this is that snow storms lead to so much of snowfall and wind that it becomes impossible to step out. You might get isolated in your homes for a long time and to keep warm you must have wood for your fireplace or stove for burning wood and a considerable amount of heating fuel.

– Adequate clothing and blankets to help you keep warm

– Food and water- The most important thing that comes into play during a snowstorm that at times can keep you locked inside your home for several days is to have enough food and water to survive that duration. Snow storms lead to such a bitter drop in the temperatures that everything gets frozen, even the many bottles of water that you had carefully kept insulated from the cold. You can store as much food as you want but as long as it is frozen, it isn’t doing any good to you or your body. The severely low temperatures also lead to a loss in the nutritional value of any stored food.

Irrespective of how much wood you fire up or how many jackets you wear and blankets you cover yourself with you never truly feel warm in a snowstorm. To survive you need food that gives warmth to your body from within. The chill and lethargy that the cold weather fills our bodies with makes us slow and unable to get up and prepare hot and fresh food or warm up the stored one. It is in situations like these that MRE or Meals, Ready to Eat come into play.

MREs are a highly reliable source of food and water in an emergency situation such as this.

They are full of essential nutrients and are made keeping the government’s nutritional guidelines in mind. Depending upon the type of MRE you have stacked up they contain 1200 to 2000 calories in a meal for one day. Most MRE’s come with a full day’s meal along with a snack and eating utensils. The utensils are of plastic, so they make the MRE pack light in weight. Some MRE’s come with a flameless heater and others with a self-heating system that gets activated as soon as you open the MRE pack. So you can be assured of hot meals when it’s snowing outside.

Each packet of MRE is packed in a hermetically sealed environment that maintains the nutritional level for the specified period. There are military grade MREs that last for as long as a year. MREs are waterproof and impact resistant so they are designed to withstand the most extreme conditions.

Snow storms cause all water to freeze up. Cold weather calls for adequate hydration therefore it is important to keep drinking water regularly. There are MREs that come with emergency drinking water that remain unfrozen and at moderate temperatures irrespective of the weather outside. Depending upon the lifetime of MREs you can buy the ones that last for years.

Food and water give you the energy to survive during a snowstorm. The terribly low temperature makes it impossible to consume traditional food and water thus it is important to stack up as many MREs as you can in case of a snowstorm or severe winters. Better safe than sorry!”

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