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How to prepare your home for freezing temperatures in a winter storm – The Washington Post

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Winter officially begins Wednesday and Mother Nature is poised to produce an onslaught of snow, cold and wind. From roughly Kansas City to Buffalo, and to the north, a punishing combination of snow and strong winds is anticipated.
While much of the Midwest and Great Lakes will contend with dangerous blizzard conditions, Southern states will be smacked with gusty winds and frigid air. Subzero wind chills will expand as far south as Texas and northern portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. While many in the South may not see a white Christmas, temperatures are forecast to remain below freezing from Friday into Christmas Day.
Here are the forecasts for 10 cities in the path of Christmas week blizzard
Whether your area faces cold weather, wind-driven snow or both, here are some ways to prepare for the elements and protect your home:
Throwing down a layer of salt before snowfall can help prevent sidewalks and driveways from getting slick. In some cases, salt can also break up thin layers of ice that have already formed.
Sand, on the other hand, does not break up ice or prevent ice from forming. Instead, sand is extremely effective at creating a grip on top of layers of ice to prevent slips and generate enough traction to help tires stuck in snow or ice. Kitty litter is also an at-home substitute for sand.
For those who like to operate semi-heavy machinery, crank up the snowblower and go to town. Park the snowblower under a tarp close to your front door for easy access when you’re ready. Have some extra gasoline on hand in case you need to refuel.
For the DIY folks, gear up and stock up on a sturdy shovel — or two. Old shovels with cracks or dents can make the already-exhausting activity harder. Pro tip: spray nonstick cooking spray on your shovel and watch the snow skate off. Clear heavy wet snow with a degree of caution because removal can cause overexertion and, in some cases, even heart attacks.
Did you remember to clear your gutters after all the leaves fell? Whether you quickly climb up a ladder or call a gutter cleaner, you have to check. Leaf-clogged gutters have the potential to cause serious damage to homes even during blizzards because they can create ice dams. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof.
Trapped water from melting snow builds up behind the dam and pries up the shingles on roofs, causing water to leak into the attic. Water then damages walls, ceiling, insulation and other areas. Trapped moisture can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew.
Whether you live in an area prone to power outages or not, cold weather can make power outages even more hazardous.
Charge cellphones and other electronic devices ahead of time and stock up on portable chargers in case the power goes out. Flashlights and extra batteries are also crucial household items to have in your home emergency kit.
Portable generators generally use gasoline or propane, so stock up in advance.
4 things to do now to prepare yourself and your home for extreme cold
Be wary of using generators and combustible forms of energy indoors for heat — exhaust can cause carbon monoxide poisoning within minutes. It’s important not to run generators near windows, in garages, basements or attics.
Have you ever stood by a closed window and still felt a draft? Windows and doors are susceptible to allowing gusts of cool air in and allowing warm air to seep out.
Sealing leaky crevasses in windows and doors can keep hot air in. Adding weather stripping will trap heat by doors and caulk fill window gaps.
Closing your blinds and curtains could also add an extra layer of defense.
When temperatures plunge, the chance of freezing pipes skyrockets. According to State Farm, burst pipes and ice dams cost $181 million in claims this year along, averaging $20,000 per claim. Texas was the No. 1 state for these losses with $64 million in claim costs.
When water freezes, it expands, causing weak metal or plastic pipes to burst. To prevent frozen pipes, you should let cold water trickle from the faucet because water moving at a steady rate is less likely to freeze. Open cabinet doors in bathrooms and in the kitchen to allow warm air to circulate, keeping pipes nice and toasty.
Pipes in basements or crawl spaces should be wrapped with insulation to ward off freezing.
Outdoor pipes will also be at risk due to freezing temperatures. Disconnecting garden hoses and covering external faucets can prevent damage to exterior pipes. If possible, turn off water to outside spigots and drain the water.
How to prevent water pipes from freezing and bursting during a winter power outage
If a pipe does break, it’s important to locate your water shut-off valve to stop the flow of water. Frozen pipes stop the supply of water throughout the house. Buy plenty of bottled water in case the tap is turned off.
Indoor heating systems could shut down if vents choke which could be dangerous during freezing conditions. Keeping snow from outside drains and vents when snow starts to melt is key.
Use this checklist to prepare your home for winter

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