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10 Things to Know About Winter Power Outages

Between the wind, heavy snow and ice, power outages are common during the winter months. Winter power outages cause several inconveniences, but there are some things you can do to better weather the storm. Here are 10 things to know about winter power outages.

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Protect Your Electronics and AppliancesLove the wind/Shutterstock

Protect Your Electronics and Appliances

When the power goes out, first make sure it's not just a blown circuit. If the power outages are going to be out for a long time, protect your electronics and appliances by unplugging any that use electric motors. And turn a light switch to the "on" position so you'll know when the power comes back on.
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Keep Cold Air OutIzf/Shutterstock

Keep Cold Air Out

Temperatures during winter outages can drop significantly. And keep all doors and windows to the outside shut tight. If you have cracks or gaps near windows and doors, use towels or a rolled-up blanket placed in front of the gap to stop drafts. If the outage is at night, close the curtains or blinds. Also, if the sun is out and shining in the window, place a dark-colored blanket on the floor where it can catch the sun's rays to generate heat.
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Prevent Frozen PipesFilaphoto/Shutterstock

Prevent Frozen Pipes

If you have municipal water, turn faucets to a trickle to prevent frozen pipes. And if you have a well with an electric pump, you can wrap pipes in newspaper, towels or blankets to prevent them from freezing.
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Safely Heat Your Homeviki2win/Shutterstock

Safely Heat Your Home

Never rely on gas stoves or charcoal grills as an indoor heat source. Wood fireplaces and wood stoves can be used. And you can also run a bathtub of hot water (heat the water on an outdoor grill or stove if necessary) to help warm up the home.
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Avoid Carbon Monoxide DangersSpok83/Shutterstock

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Dangers

If you're using a generator during power outages, make sure it is properly ventilated and that you follow the manufacturer's directions when operating. And keep generators away from all windows, doors and vents that could draw air indoors.
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Stay Warm When SleepingDavid Stuart Productions/Shutterstock

Stay Warm When Sleeping

If power outages last overnight, use a sleeping bag and wool blankets which are both great insulators. Also, wear a winter cap on your head and mittens on your hands. And layer on any blankets, including fleece and fur which will help keep the heat in. You can also sleep in a group to generate body heat.
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Be Smart with CommunicationKite_rin/Shutterstock

Be Smart with Communication

Limit phone calls and texts to emergencies-only to help preserve your phone's battery life. And during some power outages, text messages may go through when calls do not. Reduce your screen's brightness and close apps you're not using to conserve battery life.
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Eat and Drink for WarmthBrian Goodman/Shutterstock

Eat and Drink for Warmth

Eating raises metabolism which burns calories and will help you generate some internal heat. And think high-calorie, nonperishable foods such as nuts and trail mix, fruits, canned soups and canned meat and fish. Also, drink plenty of water, along with hot beverages such as tea and coffee, if you have a way to make them. Avoid alcohol which can be dehydrating and put you at risk for making bad decisions.
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Water Woes

If you have little running water, only flush when absolutely necessary. And if you have no running water, you can use a 5-gallon bucket and sawdust to absorb liquid and odor. Bathe only when necessary. Also you can try heating up water on an outdoor grill or stove and using it to wash, but remember, you'll quickly become cold once you get wet. Try baby wipes for basic hygiene.
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Watch for Frostbite and Hypothermiatome213/Shutterstock

Watch for Frostbite and Hypothermia

Signs of frostbite include a pale appearance and loss of feeling in extremities. And hypothermia symptoms include memory loss, slurred speech, uncontrollable shivering and exhaustion. Also, if the victim is conscious, remove any wet or damp clothing and move the victim to the warmest area of the home. Call for medical help as soon as possible.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.