24 Nov How bushy are those squirrel tails?
Every year, residents of snow-prone states get an early reminder of winter when a place like Buffalo gets clobbered. Who could have imagined five to seven feet? Well, there might have been some; the folks who noted bushy squirrel tails, extra logs on the beaver dams and the quantity of pine cones in the upper limbs of evergreens. Some people are just wicked shahp about such things. So, now that you know some of the secrets of accurate prognosticating, what are the things you can do to prep for the snow siege ahead?
Here are some reminders.
Snowblower test and tune-up. I took advantage of an enterprising business that advertised coming to my home, changing the oil, checking the starter and cables, inflating the tires and changing the belts. If you can’t find such a service, be sure to do it yourself or get your machine to the service shop in the next couple of weeks. A malfunctioning snow blower is hard to transport when you can’t plow the driveway or get it to your buried trailer.
Know your physical limitations. If your age and fitness are a question mark, maybe it’s time to hire that kid in the neighborhood to plow your driveway, shovel the steps and clear your walkways. Whether you have strength or cardiac risk factors, it isn’t worth it to get yourself in trouble.
Lamps and lights. Lay in a stock of batteries for flashlights and battery-powered lanterns. If you’re planning to purchase new lanterns, take a look at ones with LED bulbs as they use less energy. If you rely on candles or oil lamps, be certain they are placed on a solid surface and out of the way to avoid being tipped over. Do not go to bed with lamps or candles still lit. It’s not worth the risk. Also, consider buying hand-cranked flashlights and lanterns. They hold a charge for a reasonable period of time.
Generators. First, decide how much you like cold showers. With that chilly attention-getter, go to a generator dealer and consider your options; portable generator or hard-wired. The dealer will recommend the size and design of the options available.If you want to use a portable generator to power your refrigerator, your furnace and other key appliances, a licensed electrician can install a transfer switch. In essence, the switch disconnects your home from the power company until electricity is restored in your area. It is the ONLY SAFE WAY to power essential motors such as well pumps and furnaces.
Absolutely do not attempt to plug a portable generator into a household outlet! Here are three reasons: First, you could severely damage your home’s wiring. Second, you could start a fire that would be difficult to fight if the fire department couldn’t get to you through the snow or around downed trees. Third, your generator could push power back through the utility lines thought to be without power. A utility worker handling downed lines could be electrocuted as a result.
If you live near the end of the line or have waited longer than most people to have your power restored in previous years, absolutely take a look at hard wiring an auxiliary fixed generator. It is not cheap but it may provide the most security for your home compared to damage due to frozen pipes. Have a licensed and insured electrician perform this work.
If you already own a generator, change the oil and lay in a few extra quarts in case you need to use it for extended periods. Similarly, be sure you have a couple of five gallon gas cans safely stored.
Finally, to ensure the safety of operators and those near a portable generator, most manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend covering your generator to avoid electrocution. CPSC states: “Staff determined that to be weatherproof, a generator would need, as a minimum, a raintight or rainproof enclosure, in-use weatherproof receptacle covers, and ground fault protection for all receptacles.” This recommendation was brought to our attention by GenTent Safety Canopies of New Hampshire who manufacture a nifty tailored tent for wet weather protection.
Keep the essentials handy. When the weather turns against you, spare yourself the hassle of digging through closets, the garage, the basement or other storage areas that contain harsh-weather items. For example, if you have ice dams in your eaves, be sure your extension ladder is not behind all the lawn furniture; move the generator toward the front of the garage or storage shed and ALWAYS operate it outside** and at least twenty feet from any building; put your shovels on the porch; get a supply of sand and salt for steps and walkways; fill a couple of gallon jugs with water and tuck them away; then, invite a squirrel in for coffee to get a first-hand account of the winter to come.
* [Note: some scientific weather models are making a case for heavier than average snow fall this year in Northern New England due to an El Nino winter.]