25 Winter Weather Hacks

Friday, January 4, 2008 at 1:42am by admin

When you’re a kid, snow and ice mean potential days off from school, building snowmen and dreams of a soft and white holiday season. Once you’re all grown up, however, you know better than to wish for winter storms, because they usually mean dangerous driving conditions, long travel delays and even power outages. To brace yourself against the snow, ice and freezing temperatures this year, take a look at this list of 25 winter weather hacks.


Traveling during the winter months can be tough. Airlines often cancel flights due to dangerous storms, and the holiday season complicates schedules even more. Read below for tips to help ease the burden of winter travel.

  1. Check the weather: This tip seems like an obvious plan of action, but stalking Weather.com or The Weather Channel on TV will give you a heads up if bad weather is headed your way. If you’re traveling by car and can afford to be more flexible, try to plan your departure around heavy rain or snow to minimize the risk of getting in an accident.
  2. Guard yourself against germs: This article dispenses great advice for travelers who will be flying during cold and flu season. To protect yourself against contracting an illness, pack moist towelettes and wash hands regularly, get a flu shot and stretch your legs every once in a while to avoid getting blood clots.
  3. Book flights in advance: If you’re planning to travel during the holidays, book a flight well in advance to ensure a reservation. If you can, try to make a reservation with a non-stop flight to your destination, even if it means driving to another city with a bigger airport. You’ll probably spend a little more on gas and parking, but you won’t have to worry about getting stranded in the airport because you missed your connection and can’t get another flight.
  4. Start your travel early: MSNBC reports that "as a rule, airports are least congested at times when normal human beings would rather be at home or even asleep. Delays are far less likely for morning flights," and starting out on a road trip in the morning can be beneficial too, as long as you don’t run into patches of ice that haven’t had a chance to melt.
  5. Pack snacks: Bad weather can keep travelers stranded for hours, and it’s always a smart idea to pack your own snacks. If you’re stuck in traffic in between rest stops or cooped up on the runway waiting to depart, the last thing you need is a rumbly tummy.
  6. Ice and Snow, Take it Slow: The Washington Department of Transportation urges winter weather drivers to remember the mantra "ice and snow, take it slow." Avoid speeding when the weather is bad, even if you don’t think there’s ice on the road. Take extra caution when driving over bridges and on overpasses, as these areas are especially vulnerable to icing over. Check the WSDOT website for more information on practicing safe winter driving tips.
  7. Allow time for delays: CNN.com estimates that "arrival delays can exceed two to three hours at cities where there is snow, sleet and ice," so allow for these extra delays when booking a flight. Another smart tip to remember is to try to book a flight that lands between 11a.m. and 5p.m., when runways are less likely to be iced over.

Hacks for the Home

Prep your home for the unforgiving winter weather by checking the roof, pipes and heating systems. Read below for more tips.

  1. Prepare your roof: The Home Improvement Blog urges homeowners to give the roof a thorough check up before snow and ice are predicted in the forecast. This particular post lists "signs that your roofing needs repair includ[ing] ceiling spots; blistered, buckled, curled or missing shingles; cracked flashing, granules in the gutter, peeling paint or wallpaper, and excessive energy bills."
  2. Make sure your heater works correctly: At the beginning of the winter season, test your heater to make sure it’s working properly. If you notice odd smells or the indoor temperature doesn’t seem to be warming up, call a maintenance company to check the system.
  3. Install a carbon monoxide detector: Carbon monoxide poisoning is especially risky during the winter months due to possible emissions from fireplaces and heaters. Use this guide from About.com to help you select and install a carbon monoxide detector for your home.
  4. Trim tree branches: Tree branches can hang dangerously low and even snap when weighed down by ice and snow. Lifespy.com encourages homeowners to trim any branches that hang over your roof or car to avoid weather-related damage.
  5. Clean out the chimney: When the mercury drops, your family will be tempted to light a fire in the fireplace. Don’t, however, start a blaze if you haven’t checked for bird nests, leaves, cracks and extra soot.
  6. Check insulation: Make sure your windows and other outdoor outlets are properly insulated, otherwise you’ll end up overspending on your utility bills. PowerHouseTV.com lists several ways to check the insulation all around the house.
  7. Clean out the gutter: eHow.com recommends cleaning out your gutters before a winter storm, as "clogged gutters can result in basement flooding when the snow melts." Remove leaves, pine straw and any other nests or debris that have accumulated.
  8. Insulate outdoor water pipes and outlets: When the temperature drops below freezing, you’ll need to protect your pipes by insulating all outdoor water outlets and pipes that could be exposed to extra cold temperatures in the basement. Check here for tips on how to do it yourself.
  9. Prepare for a snow or ice day: If you live in an area that is particularly susceptible to dangerous winter weather, prepare yourself for the day (or week) that you’ll be stuck inside, perhaps without power. Make sure you have extra blankets to keep warm, plenty of extra water and non-perishable food items that you can prepare without using electricity. Battery-operated radios are also good to have on hand so that you can get updated on weather conditions. Charge cell phones before a storm knocks out your power, and keep extra batteries and a generator on hand at the start of the season. These supplies sell out fast.
  10. Protect your pets and plants: When temperatures reach freezing, move your pets and potted plants inside. If you’re afraid your dog isn’t potty-trained enough for the living room, make a warm nesting area out of towels and old blankets and move him into the garage.

Car Maintenance

Keep your car running even when storms dump snow and ice onto the roads.

  1. Load up the trunk with supplies: No one plans on getting stranded in a snowdrift in the middle of the night, and that’s why, if you live in a cold climate, you should always be prepared. Items to keep in your trunk include a sleeping bag or extra coat to keep yourself warm, snacks like peanut butter or granola bars that are nutritious and will last a long time, a flashlight, a battery-operated radio and an ice scraper for your windshield.
  2. Invest in snow chains or tires: If you spend most of the winter months driving through snow, consider investing in snow tires or snow chains to give your car extra stability and help prevent weather-related accidents.
  3. Pay attention to your car’s oil change: MSNBC reports that drivers need to pay special attention to their cars’ oil change during the winter, because "oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t do the best job of keeping your engine lubricated." When your vehicle is due for an oil change, make sure the maintenance crew puts in oil with the appropriate viscosity.
  4. Check belts and hoses: According to this article, "cold weather can do a number on belts and hoses, so they deserve attention." Take your vehicle in for a quick check up before the temperatures get really low.

Helpful Resources and Websites

Turn to these helpful resources and websites for more advice on dealing with the hardships of winter, including storm advisories and preparation ideas.

  1. Precautions a Must for Safe Winter Travel: Use this guide from the Red Cross website as a checklist before heading out on the road during the winter. Tips also include what to do in case you get stranded in freezing temperatures and important items that you should keep in the trunk.
  2. Driving Safety Tips: Driving in Snow and Ice: This article from Weather.com gives great advice for driving through the ice and snow. If you think bad weather is coming your way, take a look at this list to refresh yourself on tips like "Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills" and what to do if your rear or front wheels skid.
  3. Pet Care: Top Ten Cold Weather Tips: Pet owners should take a look at this guide from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Winter weather hacks for pets include "never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm [because] dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season." Cats should be kept inside during when the weather gets cold, and all pet owners should be especially aware of antifreeze spills or leaks, which are poisonous to animals.
  4. Winter Weather Energy Efficiency Tips: Keep your energy costs from skyrocketing during the winter by checking out these tips given by the Allegheny Power company in Pennsylvania. Readers will learn how to check their homes for air leaks, install storm windows and conserve energy even during extra cold days.

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