Prepping:  Here we go again:  The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for our area.  The weather, starting tonight, could be downright crappy for a couple of days.  Cold as hell, especially.

By the forecast, we will get a spot of rain starting this afternoon.  Not normally a bad thing by itself.  But it’s character changes when one of those winter storms comes barreling down from the northwest.  That will freeze the rain on the ground and turn whatever falls next it into ice and/or snow.

This “wintery mix” (which we take to mean the weather-geeks aren’t what form it will take…) will fall off and on though Tuesday.  High tomorrow may not raise above freezing. So, it’s useful to review our “winter storm preps” because it’s always better to be over-prepared  than under.  Since storms tend to move east from here, this might be useful to lots of folks.

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This prepping discussion we hope is timely because the last time-around, the cold-smack here moved east and turned Atlanta white and even down into Florida got the “wintery mix.”

Setting Up the Plan

This is the part where you ask “What could possibly go wrong?

  1. You pipes could freeze, burst, and make one helluva mess.  Water damage and the joy of working on plumbing in freezing conditions.
  2. Your power could go out and leave you cold and miserable – and then the pipes break on thawing or along the way.
  3. Snow and ice accumulations on horizontal surfaces can ruins things, too:  Snow removal ideas and supplies are in order.  Especially consummables (rock salt and whatever) that you’ve been meaning to resupply one of these days.

Our Version of a Winter Storm Plan

Plumbing supplies:  Check that you know where the pot of “hot-set PVC glue” is – along with that purple primer for PVC pipe.

Turn up the House temps:  Thanks to all our recent experiments and observations using that non-contact thermometer, we know exactly where our “weaknesses” are.

One (since we live in a double-wide modular) is that the ventilation holes in the foundation (rock and concrete) under the house may be temporarily closed off.  We could remain below freezing for much longer than usual.  This increases odds of failure.

Our logic here is simple:  We know that the house is fine (as is) for temps down into the 18F range.  BUT, we don’t know how long it could hold at those temps.

The easiest way to ensure that things go well is to simply cut a number of 12-by-18-inch hunks of plywood and some 2–by’s on a 45-degree angle to wedge them in place.

The foundation about the gym/guest quarters is distributed in nature. So we don’t have handy “ports” to cover like those around the house foundation.  The good news is that we blew all of our leaves (100-tractor buckets worth) into a huge pile that will “cook down” to garden food, over time.  But a few buckets of leaves both around the foundation and heaped up on the water pipes (already in 6″ PVC, stuffed with styro peanuts and wrapped with big plastic garbage bags) will be served a bucket, or two.

Elaine will drain the hoses while I’m banking up the foundation with mulch material.

With the air circulation under the house momentarily cut to almost nothing, the odds of having pipes freeze should decrease.

Then, as we bump up the normal house temperature a couple of degrees, it becomes pie-simple engineering. (We hope!  Knock on wood!)

The house is heated by under floor insulated metal ducting from our (slightly over-sized) HVAC unit and this “leaks some heat” into the unheated crawl space.  Solves the under-house freezing issue, we hope.

Hot Water Checklist

As the bitter cold lays in tomorrow morning when I get up (and by then it will likely be snowing) I’ll start my 3-hour rotation of turning on every hot water faucet in the house and in the guest quarters/gym.

In the GQ, for example, the hot and cold water pipes run fairly close together.  Since heat migrates, the radiative heat from the hot water pipes will tend to keep the inside of the walls warmer.  Many places, we installed the piping in close proximity for this very reason.

The Power Outage Plan

We have a fair bit to do on this aspect.

The 3-by-4 cards with the power company outage reporting number all get set out:  One by each phone. That’s four locations in the house and 2 locations in the office/gym/shop.

We also understand that in the event of a power failure, the cordless phones won’t stay up forever, so we have corded phones for each location.  They’re less convenient, but more reliable.  This is when reliable counts more than the speakerphone feature.

(Often, just setting out the cards seems to prevent power outages.)

Ready the Back-up Systems

We don’t live in an area cold enough to justify moving a 55-drum of drinking water to a semi-heated area.  But, if we lived much more north of here, that would certainly be on the agenda.  Particularly because when you break a pipe, the water goes off for a good while…maybe a day or two.

We have the toilet tanks, although Elaine is more civilized so she will have several large pots full of water sitting on the stove.

Unlike most people, we actually have a back-up heating source:  It won’t be as toasty as the $10,000 mega heating and cooling system, but we certainly won’t freeze to death, either.

The double-wide (before our radical makeover) came with a 6,500 BTU ventless propane fireplace.  Since part of our makeover was double-glass everywhere (except in the sun room, which is where a lot of the single-glaze was recycled to), 6500 BTU will keep the place comfortable.  In a couple of rooms, anyway.

When we bought this place (converting to all-electric for normal times) we kept the 500 gallon propane tank which is still full.  One of these days, I will get the transfer hoses, so we can burn some off in the BBQs.  In the meantime, we’re ready for the Maunder Minimum (or nuclear winter), right now.

That is, if we do a few other things, like shut down the music/studio which is designed to “go cold” if necessary.  This is was all part of the plan having no plumbing or heating ducts in there for this very reason.  (Another was acoustic dampening of HVAC ducting to stop air tumble was another reason, but you see how this dance works?)

A lot of people don’t think when doing “redesign” about the subtle aspects, but falling-back is an art that everyone should consider.

The music studio is, by the way, the “tightest” room in the house.  It’s our “fall-back from fallout” room.  Being tight (like floor/sidewall plasterboard joints being caulked for acoustical control), it’s the ideal place to toss in controlled air filtration if Kid Korea really does go nuts and the jet stream doesn’t favor us with a more northerly track (though it usually does).

Back to heating; the other plumbing stack to maintain heat on is the guest quarters/gym.  For this, a catalytic heater (5,000 BTU) on a 20 pound propane bottle is ready.  While not my favorite thing to use indoors, will at least prevent freezing.  And yes, the CO2 detector that used to live under the front seat of the airplane will see service if this comes about.  Battery check on that, too.

Communications?  Oh, yeah. Totally:  We will have four 2-meter hand-helds (walkie-talkies) all charged up.  Tonight, on the local repeater Monday Night Social Net, we’ll probably talk about planning and such, too.

We have three Wi-Fi networks and they should be up for an hour or two – which would be long enough to post an update on the web sites.  I will have my laptop fully charged and Elaine’s just got a new ultra-extended battery pack.  The satellite link is the only question (it’s a big touchy on deep cloud-coverage days, but it’s on backed-up power, too.

We also have the big battery bank and 110 volt (sine wave) power from the solar and stacked inverters.  But that’s for REAL emergencies – like my office.  It can feed VHF and HF radios, pull down satellite passes direct for the polar orbiting birds, scan fire and police, power one server, two Wi-Fi’s monitors and such for about 48-hours.

Then it will all fall back to two UPS units – which have fresh batteries.

Fine point:  When was your last load & time test on your UPS?  4-months here…

A bit of prepping to do?  Sure…always is.  We’re not ready this 5-minutes, but in an hour or two?  Sure.  A major winter storm is nothing to fear…if you get ahead of it and prep a bit.

Done right, I might get Elaine to throw together a pot of her amazing clam chowder.

Another key point:  Nothing makes you feel better in adverse conditions than comfort food.  Some are especially well-suited to cold weather.  Soups, stews,  hearty soups and chowders.

Fresh-baked bread, pizza to keep the oven tossing off heat or a few dozen double-chocolate chip cookies.  At this rate,  we get thinking about a cup of hot cocoa with large a shot of peppermint schnapps in it….

Bring ‘er on Ma Nature!  The Ure’s can hardly wait.

Write when you get rich (or warm),

George@ure.net