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Joyce Endee

So, are you ready for winter?

January 05, 2011
The Christmas weekend blizzard was a harsh reminder that winter is here, leaving many to scramble for supplies to get them through a lengthy snowstorm and deal with any possible power outages and other consequences winter weather may bring.

While there isn't much residents can do to stop the snow, ice and wind, there are ways to be prepared for whenever the next storm crops up on the radar.

Safety is the key factor, no matter what happens in a winter storm, and staying off the roads to allow plows to do their job is important whenever possible, said Jim VanDongen, spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Safety.

"A snowstorm in New Hampshire isn't usually a disaster unless people do something stupid to turn it into one. Stay home, relax and it will pass," he said.

While stuck at home, Van Dongen said, people should always have a stockpile of items to see them through the wintry days such as board games for the kids, water for the "necessities" of life, easy-to-prepare foods and of course the proper tools for snow removal.

Rich Carlson, manager of Aubuchon Hardware in Meredith, said every storm brings an onslaught of customers in search of shovels, ice melt and other products.

"Roof rakes have everyone in a panic every year and it's amazing how many snow shovels we sell because people can't find one when they need it," he said.

Because these items can sometimes sell out, it is always a good idea to check for snow removal equipment prior to winter's arrival and purchase what is missing before it is actually needed.

Candles, oil lanterns and other sources of light are handy but can also be dangerous and should be used with care. VanDongen said the preferred alternate lighting would be battery powered lanterns and flashlights, with at least one stored on each level of a home.

"The last thing you want to have to do is call for emergency services because of a fire. They could have a hard time getting to your home, too, during a storm," said VanDongen.

Gilford Fire Deputy Steve Carrier echoed VanDongen's sentiment, also recommending battery powered illumination during a power outage. And while response times can be hindered in a storm he wanted to remind residents that hydrants can also be inaccessible, creating another problem for emergency responders.

"People who live near a hydrant can help us out a lot by shoveling them out. That kind of assistance is always appreciated," Carrier said.

He cautioned residents to check ventilation to all heating units in their homes. Should snow and ice build up around these vents, people could be faced with carbon monoxide dangers. Other shoveling to keep in mind, he added, is all doors to a home.

"People need to keep every means to get into a home open because we can't always get a stretcher through and may need to use a back or side door," he said.

Police Chief Doug Wyman of Sandwich advised from a safety official's perspective. With the prevalence of wireless phones, he suggested people consider having a hardwired landline phone in their home as well. When power goes out, wireless phones are rendered useless but a hardwired phone can still be used to call for help. He recommended people keep at least a half tank of gas in their car so they can warm up and keep a small battery-operated radio to receive news bulletins.

"WMUR is broadcast on 107.7 FM at noon and again in the late afternoon so people can hear how long an outage may last and even get information on shelters that may be opening in their area," Wyman said.

He also suggested residents keep elderly neighbors in mind and check on them when possible during a bad storm or power outage.

When setting water aside for a power outage or frozen pipes, people should keep in mind it takes approximately two gallons of water to flush a modern toilet and as much as five gallons for older models. Drinking water should be stored along with whatever water might be necessary for cooking on woodstoves or gas appliances. Safety officials all cautioned that propane grills should only be used outdoors away from open doors and flammable objects.

VanDongen's last bit of advice was for residents to create a Winter Emergency Kit, filled with extra batteries, matches, canned goods or other such staple foods, and a hand operated can opener, which they can readily access. Most power outages are only a few hours in duration, however, and he said they may perhaps even bring a benefit to households in this age of modern technology.

"They just might spur families to do things like have a good long conversation or read a real book instead of playing with computers games," he said.

Martin Lord Osman
Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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