Emergency Cold Weather Checklist


For the first time in decades north Texas is going to hit single digits. This week is a doozy. We get overnight freezes a few times during January and February, but never for a whole week.

It was time to up our preparations.

Greg and I grew up in Chicago so we know how to live in cold climates. A cold-weather big city also has the benefit of having infrastructure in place for low temps.

But the southern countryside is different. Our water pipes are often exposed, or at least the tall spigots that dot are acreage. When we get freeze warnings, our first response is to shut off the outside water and blow out the outdoor pipes with compressed air so there's no water in any pipe above ground.

Most people probably don't do this. They take their chances. But as Greg says, "Better to spend a half hour blowing out lines than all day replacing busted pipes."

We knew this weather was coming over a week ago so we started making plans. Here's my checklist when dealing with deep freezes.

For city or country dwellers:

Check the long range forecast. There's usually a 10-day forecast. Things change from now to then so I check it daily. If I see a sharp downturn in temps, I start preparations.

Stock up on supplies. If you know you're going to be cooped up, get your food and supplies now. We went looking for thermal underwear for Greg the day before the plunge and we found one pair left. Luckily it was his size!

Buy comfort food. What's your go-to comfort food? Roast chicken, pot roast, soup supplies, chili making supplies. We actually smoked a bunch of ribs, sausages, and chicken before our freeze so there's food for all week. When we got tired of meat, I made fish, shrimp, or Mexican meals. For lunches there was soup or chili. 

BRING YOUR PETS IN. I shouldn't have to say that at all, but some people still leave their pets out. If you have a livestock guardian dog (like a Great Pyrenees) at least offer them a shelter for wind protection. They'll use it if they need it.

Buy or cut your wood. Although we have a very nice heating unit in our house, there's nothing like a fire on a cold night. We spent two days splitting wood, making kindling, and hauling it close to the house for easy access. Even if you don't use a fireplace for all your heat, it does a great job taking the edge off a cold room.

Cook freezer meals. If you really want to enjoy a cozy winter night, fix a few meals ahead of time so all you'll have to do is pop them in the oven.

If you live in the country:

Livestock first. 

Shelters: Days before we heard the deep freeze was coming our way we started securing the animal pens. The goats have a 3-sided shelter but we hung two tarps as a windbreak over the open side. It was quite nice in there.

The chickens were next. I cleaned out their coop and put in fresh pine wood chips extra deep. We also lined their main windows with corrugated clear plastic panels to keep the cold out and sunshine in. The rafter vents remained open for ventilation. 

The quail were a little different. Since I had so few, we opted to put them in a cage and bring them into an enclosed room off the garage. Heated and safe.

Bird feeders: The birds are hitting our feeders hard. Our big one goes empty every three days. 

Water: With the outside water shut off, we have to haul water to the animals--my least favorite chore on an icy day. The chickens have a heated water bowl, but the goats need fresh warm water everyday, usually twice a day when the weather is especially brutal like we're facing now.

Feed: I try to be a little more generous with feed when it's cold. Goats get a little more corn and the chickens get cooked eggs since they're giving me so many eggs right now.

Family Winter Supplies: Since we don't deal with harsh winter weather often our warmer clothes, hats and gloves are usually in storage. I bring them out a few days before a freeze. This year Greg needed thermals but in truth we almost waited too long. Best to make an assessment before an emergency weather event happens so you're not caught empty handed.

If you're in the northern hemisphere, stay warm, stay safe.

PS  I had promised a post on "Starting seeds, part 2", but my equipment is back-ordered and I didn't want to post an article without the right pictures. It's coming, but it'll be delayed 2-3 weeks.

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Jackie said…
Maria we were caught unprepared back in 1983 and it was a valuable lesson learned about broken water pipes along with the not so fun chore of fixing then under our little rent house in the mud the water had made before we came home from visiting family that weekend.
Angela Brown said…
Hi Maria,
Just now getting to respond as I lost electricity late Sunday/early Monday and just got it back today.

I was glad you shared something like this in a past post. Living in the city, in a suburban townhome community, space is limited and a variety of things shared whether we like it or not. Having read a past post, I recalled some things you shared regarding home survival tips when the power is out for an extended time - like what just happened - and roads become impassable.

I didn't have every single thing I would have liked to have had on hand, but survived each day as best as possible. I guess I learned I likely COULD survive a month in a home with no internet if I had electricity and plenty of books.

Hoping you all are well.
Maria Zannini said…
Jackie: We focus on pipes first before every freeze. As much as I hate blowing them out, it's sure easier than having to shut off the water and repair pipes.

Sometimes the weather people aren't too precise and we've been caught off guard so now we tend to err on the side of caution.
Maria Zannini said…
Angela: We've had rolling blackout since late Saturday. What a miserable weekend it was.

If we'd had electricity life would've been dandy. I didn't miss the internet at all, but it was so cold all we could think about was hustling to keep the house from dropping too low in temperature.

I hope it's another few years before we face this again.
Mike Keyton said…
Let's hope spring comes soon, that's all I can say. It dawned on me you might be interested in this series based on a yorkshire farm - a couple with eight children running a sheep farm in the wilderness. If it's available on your you tube, here's the link. If you enjoy it there are a host of other snippets too, which I think you may both enjoyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yliDjvA_a4