Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

next week's column: Surviving Winter -- Go South, Young Man

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


I received an e-mail awhile back encouraging everyone to prepare for winter weather before it happens – as if I could ever be prepared for winter. It took me this long to pass the information on to you, not because I was trying to prepare myself, but because I was deep in cold drifts of denial.

My preparation for winter consists of whimpering a lot, and dressing in everything I own. It gets to the point where people avoid me – or more specifically, the whimpering. I’m okay with that. I’m not sharing my body heat with anybody.

Still, as a public service I’m going to pass this along. I figure if everyone else is prepared, maybe winter will get frustrated and go away.

First, you should familiarize yourself with basic terms. A Winter Storm Watch means bad weather will come within 36 hours – unless, say, you want school to be canceled, or you earn extra money as a snow plow driver. That’s the one time when the bad weather might not arrive.

A Winter Storm Warning means bad weather is coming within 12 to 24 hours. If you need 16 hours to prepare, it’ll be 12 hours; if you want school to be canceled on Friday, it won’t arrive until Saturday.

A Blizzard Warning means you will die.

It’s important to develop a disaster plan for all possible emergencies, and often the preparation will be the same. Whether you’re facing a snowstorm or a hurricane, you want ready access to food, water, battery powered radios, and flashlights. Probably batteries would be a good idea.

You should have food that can be prepared without cooking. That’s because if the heat fails, I’ll be inside the oven.

Have enough supplies to last three days. If you’re going to be trapped in a raging blizzard for more than three days, do you really want to experience the whole thing? Better to just go ahead and starve. There’s a reason why old people move to Florida – years of experience make them realize how dumb they were for not moving to Florida sooner.

Specific risks are associated with certain areas. For instance, if you’re in the Plains States, you might face strong, howling winds that blow snow for hours at a time. If you’re near the Great Lakes, you have lake effect snow. If you’re on my block, you have to worry about me snapping every time a new alert comes out, and rummaging through the knife drawer.

Forget knives; I will set people on fire. If you position bodies the correct way and use the right kindling, they’ll keep you warm for hours. So I’ve heard.

Winterize both homes and vehicles. Caulking, weather stripping, and installing storm windows can make your fuel supply last longer. If you have children, shove them against doors to prevent drafts. That also serves the purpose of keeping them separated – fighting kids doesn’t generate near the heat you’d think it would.

Cars should have a separate disaster kit that includes a blanket, battery operated radio, food, jumper cables, a small shovel, and a blow torch. Keep the gas tank full at all times. If you become stranded, use the torch to light the gas. Look, it’s winter in Indiana – do you want to die warm, or cold? Of, if you’re an optimist, set fire to the car and give yourself extra time to find other stranded motorists. Then set their car on fire. It’s a hot dog eat hot dog world, people.

Make sure all your car’s systems are carefully checked and maintained. Not like mine. But then, I have a blowtorch.

If fuel is running low at home, close off sections of your house to conserve. Or do it even if fuel isn’t running low – by now you’ve gotten a couple of those cold weather gas bills. I’ve been sleeping on the couch for a month, and not because anyone’s mad at me. My waterbed upstairs froze over the first week of December. Anybody up for ice skating?

If you absolutely have to go out, you’re either insane or broke. Dress in layers – that way body recovery people can grip your clothes as they pull you out of the drifts. Why make their job more difficult? On a related note, when you’re shoveling and feel the big one coming, try to die with the shovel sticking straight up, so someone finds you before a wave of slush from a passing plow turns you into a news story for future generations:

“And they found him twelve years later, just a few yards from rescue. Back to you in the studio.”

Avoid traveling. Seventy percent of winter storm-related deaths are related to traffic crashes. (The other 30 percent are related to cabin fever.) Contrary to popular opinion, ice and snow covered pavement doesn’t cause most accidents – stupid people do. “But the speed limit was 55 – I don’t understand why my car’s upside down.” Well, I don’t understand why they let you drive, so we’re even.

If you must drive, fill your tank up completely, take extra cash, and drive south until you run out of land. Stay there until hurricane season begins, then drive back. I have no idea if the Gulf Coast is lovely this time of year, but when’s the last time they issued a Baton Rouge Blizzard Warning?

In all seriousness, remember that when a big storm hits, you may have to fend for yourself for awhile. Emergency crews could have just as much trouble getting around as anyone else, so be prepared to hold out against any emergency – that includes having a fire extinguisher, smoke detectors, and a plan for escaping fires and getting to shelter somewhere else. Residential fires increase during winter, and they can’t all be traced back to me trying to stay warm. On a related note, carbon monoxide poisoning is also common during winter – get a detector.

Cheer up, winter won’t last forever. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark, weather
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