HOW TO PREPARE FOR A WINTER STORM

By Beth Weinhouse
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With all the fun that winter weather can bring—days off from school, ice skating, playing outside in the snow—there is also the threat of dangerous storms that can cause damage to your home. By taking some time to prepare, you'll be ready for whatever this winter has in store. Be proactive with ensuring your home is prepared with these winter weather safety tips:

Prevent Pipes from Freezing

When temperatures drop, making sure your heating system is in good working order might be your first concern, but protecting your plumbing is essential, too. Frozen pipes could cut off your water supply, and may result in leaks as the pipes thaw. Burst pipes—which can happen when water in the pipes freezes and expands—are even worse, potentially causing flooding and requiring major plumbing repairs. The best thing to do is prevent your pipes from freezing in the first place.

  • Before the temperature drops below freezing, drain all outdoor water supply lines like hoses, sprinkler systems, or swimming pools. Close the indoor valves that supply these lines, but leave the outside valves open (so water can drain and not freeze).
  • Check all pipes located outdoors or in unheated areas (basements, attics, garages, outdoor walls) and make sure they are properly insulated. If not, consider installing specialty products like pipe sleeves, heat tape or heat cables on any vulnerable pipes.
  • When the temperatures drop to extremes, let the water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes, even a trickle can help prevent freezing.
  • If your pipes do freeze—you can suspect it if you turn on the tap and only a trickle comes out—keep the faucet open. Try to identify the frozen section, and apply heat with a hair dryer, space heater, or heating pad until full water pressure returns. If you can't find or reach the frozen section of the pipe, your efforts don't get the water flowing again, or the pipes burst, call a plumber immediately.
Prevent Ice Dams from Forming

Ice dams are another threat to your home caused by freezing water—in this case, water freezing above the eaves of the roof. When it melts, the water can leak inside and cause damage to walls and ceilings.
  • To prevent ice dams, make sure you have your gutters cleared of leaves and debris. If your roof is old or hasn't been inspected recently, have it checked for proper ventilation and insulation.
  • If you do wind up with ice dams, don't try to remove them yourself—call a roofing professional.
Stock up on Supplies Early

Ensure that you're prepared for a storm before it hits by stocking up on essential supplies.
  • Get ready for the storm with snow shovels or other snow-removing equipment (such as a snow blower, with gasoline). Purchase sand for traction, and rock salt or similar products to help melt ice on walkways and driveways. It's often difficult to find these items immediately after a storm, when there is sudden, increased demand.
  • Do a survey of your supplies and stock up on essential items for emergencies, as well as food and water for your family (and don't forget about pets!).
Stay Informed

Tune in to a radio station or local news channel for important information from the National Weather Service about the weather and safety conditions in your area. A battery-operated or hand-cranked emergency radio will help keep you informed even during a power failure. The more you know about winter storm safety, the more prepared you can be to protect your home and family. Visit our Water Damage resource pages to learn more about preventing frozen pipes and ice dams.


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