Sunday, August 14, 2016

how to prepare for winter in the UP ...

believe it or not, people are already talking about winter arriving next month and have been making repairs and preparations. where some parts of the country are just now getting into their hottest months, we've been waking up to some mornings in the low 50's and twice now i've seen low early morning fog on the way in to work.

winter here isn't something to take lightly, in spite of what i said previously in my f.a.q. post. while it might not really last for nine months, it can last for six or seven with a surprise snow storm in the eighth month. preparing is a matter of life or death. our first winter here, we got 3+ feet of snow on Veteran's Day 2014. it did not melt until late April 2015. last year, our second winter here, snow came and went from November until January when it really settled in for the long haul. it melted in early April of this year. there is no "typical" UP winter, they are all different, so preparing for the worst of them will be the only way to have a good one.

clothing

when it comes to clothing, wool is the best textile for keeping warm. it wicks moisture away from the body and keeps it away. cotton tends to retain moisture which can be deadly in freezing weather because it will make you colder. layering your clothing, with wool as the closest layer to your skin, will help to keep you warm and allow you to take off layers should you begin to feel like you are overheating.

make sure that before you go outdoors, you check the temperature and dress appropriately, making sure that exposed skin will be covered if you are going to be outside for any length of time. while it may seem like you would only need to do that in freezing temperatures, that isn't necessarily true because any extended time outside exposed to cold temperatures puts your skin at risk of damage. temperatures can change quickly, and even if it feels warm, snow, freezing rain, sleet or hail is not.

good waterproof and warm footwear is also something that you need to have. wearing boots or shoes that will not protect your feet from the cold, or keep them dry when walking in snow, is almost as bad as wearing no shoes at all. wool socks will keep your feet warm, but not for long if your shoes or boots let moisture in and keep it in.

a wool hat, scarf, socks, and gloves; a waterproof coat with a hood, gloves or mittens to be worn over wool gloves in extreme cold, and waterproof boots. a thin layer of underclothing, close to the skin and designed to wick away moisture, at the same time be comfortable enough to layer over  with pants and sweaters without feeling bulky in sub-zero temperatures.

windows and doors

starting inside your home, choose windy days that are blowing on each of the four sides of your home, to check for any windows and doors that will allow cold air in. holding your hand along the casings, feel for any areas that are letting in the wind and mark the areas with chalk that you will be able to see from the outside. if replacing your windows, or adding storm windows are not options, you should try to seal the windows in other ways.

one option is using an expanding foam sealant to seal and insulate. use it on the exterior, rather than the interior. it expands FAST and is messy if it gets somewhere you don't want it. use latex or another type of gloves when using it because if it gets on your hands, it is difficult to get off. (trust me, i know of which i speak) once dry, cut off the excess foam and paint over it. you can also replace any old or missing caulk around the windows. this will need to be done on a fairly warm and sunny day so that it will dry.

on the inside of your home, you can add insulating film over the windows. this creates air space between the cold exterior windows and the warm interior of your house. the air will be heated by the sun and will help to keep the room warmer. using thermal drapes will also add another layer of insulation between the cold and you.

adding weatherstripping around the door jams will help to seal in warmth and prevent cold air from coming in. many of the homes here have what they call a 3-season room that is basically an enclosed front porch. windows that can open for the three "pleasant" seasons but unheated for the winter. making sure that those windows and doors are also sealed and possibly thermal curtains hung will also help to make that room a little warmer, or at least a wind (and snow) break before going into the house.

house

trim all dead tree branches that hang over the house away, keep bags of ice salt by doors with small buckets to shake it out over walkways, keep a snow shovel by each door. if using a wood burning fireplace for heat, have the chimney cleaned. have any natural gas or liquid propane heaters checked for leaks and change filters.

if you have basement windows, make sure they are closed and sealed. cover the exterior of the windows with polystyrene foam board measured to fit exactly over the windows. after the first heavy snow, shovel snow against the foam board, to act as additional insulation.

take down any hanging outdoor decor that is in trees or near windows to prevent it from becoming a flying block of ice in any strong winter storms. bring in any outdoor decor and furniture that when covered with snow could become damaged or a danger to anyone who is walking in the yard or snow blowing.

vehicles

if you don't have an extreme weather battery, get one. snow tires are a must-have. have the oil changed in your vehicle to something that is rated for sub-zero weather, replace windshield washer fluid with one that will not freeze, and replace wiper blades. in the trunk keep a large bag of the least expensive, large grain cat litter you can find, and a foldable shovel to help you out of any snow drifts or banks if you should slide. ideally, you should be able to reach the inside of the trunk from the inside of the vehicle if necessary.

inside your vehicle where you can reach it without having to get out and into the trunk, keep a bag with extra socks, gloves, hats, and scarves. also blankets (emergency mylar and wool) and if possible, an extra pair of thermals, pants, and a coat. in a large empty metal coffee can, keep a smaller empty metal coffee can, several votive candles and matches. in an emergency, the heat from a candle in the two cans will warm the inside of the vehicle. keep a box of protein snack bars, empty water bottles (for water from melted snow), and emergency flares.

always keep a charged cell phone in the vehicle, and never let the gas tank get below half full.

i was taking part in a series of writing challenges from the ProBlogger. this was challenge #5 of 7. between work, computer issues, and just complete and utter exhaustion, i'm way behind on getting things posted. but it works out for the best because between sometime last week (or was it the week before?) when i started drafting this post, i've learned more about winter prep ...

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