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5 Expert Tips for Weathering a Winter Storm

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Like it or not, winter will be hanging around for a few more weeks, meaning we’re not out of the woods as far as storms are concerned just yet. To make sure you’re prepared for anything Mother Nature has left to throw our way, check out these easy expert readiness tips to keep you — and your home — safe!

1. Sidestep Shortages With Smart Swaps

Once the weather forecast calls for snow, two key essentials—bottled water and rock salt — can disappear from shelves faster than you might be able get to the store. What to do if you can’t find them? “Get bags of cubed ice, which can be melted into water,” advises Michelle Hawkins, PhD, a winter weather expert at the National Weather Service.

As for the salt, Hawkins says “you can use non-clumping kitty litter on driveways and sidewalks to provide traction.”

2. Dodge Burst Pipes With a Gentle Trickle

Home flooding caused by burst frozen pipes is a top cause of property damage during winter storms. The first line of defense is to “Wrap exposed pipes in insulation,” says FEMA expert Linda Mastandrea. “It’s available in hardware stores for about 50 cents per foot.”

You should also watch the forecast: When temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, turn faucets on to a slow dribble to keep pipes from freezing.

3. Breeze Through Blackouts With Old-School Tools

Greater storm intensity could mean that power outages from bad weather will last nearly twice as long as they did a few years ago. Your backup plan should be to go “low-tech” with a battery- or crank-powered radio ($9.97, Amazon), a manual can opener, and a landline phone ($16.99, Amazon) plugged into a wall jack.

Another old-fashioned standby? Cash. “During a blackout, debit and credit card machines likely won’t work,” cautions Ashley Henyan of the American Red Cross. Head to the ATM before a storm to be on the safe side.

4. Light Up the Room With Glow Sticks

Glow sticks ($9.99, Amazon) will make for a bright addition to your blackout lighting kit. They don’t require batteries or light bulbs, and they’re safer than candles. Place a few by your bedside table to help you navigate hallways or in the bathroom as a nightlight.

You can also place a headlamp ($8.79, Amazon) on a full plastic jug of water to create a lantern effect.

5. Stay Safe by Filling Up

To avoid running out of gas in a snowstorm, top off your tank — even if you’re sure you have enough to make it home. Heavy snow slows traffic by 40 percent and can make your trip last up to 64 percent longer. Hawkins also advises packing a portable shovel ($17.50, Amazon), an emergency LED beacon ($7.98, Lowe’s), bottled water, snacks, and any medication you may need.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine

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