From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ready for Winter?

Preparing for winter weather emergencies


The recent blizzard that dumped up to 32 inches of snow and created 15 foot drifts in Western Kansas and Colorado was a reminder that winter weather can be dangerous to man and beast, even in this modern day -- and even in towns.

I heard today that several towns are having trouble getting their water plants functioning again. What a shock it would be to most townfolk if they opened the faucet and no water came out. That situation is possible if the pumps aren't able to refill the water towers.

Dennis and I were talking today about people who don't keep any water on hand and who don't have enough food in their house to sit out a bad storm. Our conclusion: some people don't have the financial resources or the necessary storage containers and space to maintain a stockpile, some people are uneducated on the need for winter readiness, and some people are simply very foolish.

My mother said she tried never to have less than 6 weeks of groceries on hand in the winter. We lived 32 miles out in the ranch country of northern Nebraska, and there were times when we didn't get to town for several weeks in the winter -- or even get mail delivered to our mailbox.

But beyond that, my parents had been impressed early in their marriage of the absolute necessity of being ready for winter. They had gone through the hard winter of 1948-1949 and the infamous "Blizzard of 1949." That blizzard (January 2-7, 1949) was the worst of a series of blizzards that began in late November and continued through March.

My parents talked about how they managed to get to town in the jeep around Christmas time, and then they were snowed in for a long, long time. The following paragraph from The Nebraska Highways Page describes the condition of Nebraska's state roads, but my parents lived eight miles off the highway on a sandy two-track road.

During the 1948-49 winter season, approximately $1.2 million was spent on snow removal. Significant snowstorms began in November, and continued periodically through the end of March. During the Blizzard of 1949 (January 2-7), about 8,000 miles (80%) of roads were blocked due to falling and blowing snow. Most were reopened in time to be drifted shut again on January 15th. Although eventually most highways would at least have one lane width plowed, it wasn't until April 7th that all state highways were reopened to 2-way traffic.

Source

When I taught school in northern Nebraska, I had a winter survival kit in my car that included blankets, a couple of empty coffee cans, a large candle, matches, and food. One coffee can was for an emergency toilet, and the other coffee can was to hold the candle. According to an Emergency Preparedness class I had taken, the candle would provide enough heat to keep a person from freezing in a stalled vehicle. I didn't ever have to try it, thank goodness.

Dennis and I had our first personal experience with the importance of keeping some emergency food on hand when we lived in Bolivia! We went through three military coups in about 20 months, and during each of the times of unrest, it was safest for civilians (especially gringos) to simply stay home.

Here in Kentucky, depending on our own well for water taught us to keep some water on hand at all times. Whenever the electricity went out, our electric pump quit working and we had no water. And of course, pumps do break down from time to time which also leaves you without water. We bought some 5-gallon jerry-cans to store emergency water. Bleach bottles work well, also.

I don't suppose we'd ever be housebound by weather more than a week or two in southern Kentucky, but I have an emergency stock of dry beans, rice, peanut butter, and some canned meats stored in the shed along with the water jugs. We have plenty of firewood, lamp oil, candles, and batteries. We always keep a couple of old wool blankets, a flashlight and a first aid kit in each of the vehicles for emergency situations on the road.

If we ever get any winter weather this year, we're ready for it, I think. Are you?

3 comments:

Theresa said...

Glad you posted this! Also, you've got a very interesting blog. I enjoy reading your memories and thoughts.

Genevieve said...

Thanks, Theresa. It's nice of you to comment. I enjoy a dialogue, instead of just a monologue!

Richard said...

Good post, I spend a lot of time trying to convince people to make sure they are prepared for problems like these... I think I'll direct some of my readers to your post as a kind of addendum my winter survival post.

~Richard
My Winter Survival Post

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.