Nova Scotia

How to prepare for a winter storm in the Maritimes

If you plan to be stranded in your home for three days and nights when a winter storm hits and you'll never be disappointed.

What you'll need to survive if a winter storm keeps you stranded for 72 hours

A good winter storm survival kit should keep you safe through the winter weather. (CBC)

Please note: This story was published January 2018. 

If you plan to be stranded in your home for three days and nights when a winter storm hits, you'll never be disappointed.

That's good advice when living in Nova Scotia.

Jason Mew, director of provincial operations for Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office, has said people should prepare for long power outages and no outside help when there's a winter storm in the forecast. 

"Put together a kit for 72 hours so they're somewhat self-sufficient in their own home while the storm passes through the province,"  he said back in 2018, ahead of another winter storm.

Your kit should include:

  • Two litres of water per day, per person. Buy it or fill jugs.
  • Food that won't spoil (canned food, energy bars, storm chips).
  • Hand-operated can opener (if you have an electric opener, your canned food won't help you).
  • Wind-up or battery-powered flashlight and radio.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Some cash.
  • Extra set of keys.

Nova Scotians should also have important items like prescription medications, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities and pet supplies on hand before the storm.

Keep your mobile phone fully charged and charge any backup battery cases you have for it. Talk to your family or roommates about how you plan on enduring an extended outage.

If you get a tarp and duct tape, you can quickly patch up a broken window should a tree fall your way. 

Figure out if you're on well water that uses a pump, as it'll stop working during an outage, meaning you'll need more water to flush the toilet and wash. In that case, fill the bathtub for extra water.

Report live wires

While you might not have power, assume that any downed power lines do. Report them to Nova Scotia Power as live wires.

Call your municipality for information on warming centres, plowing and such matters.

"911 is just for emergencies — if it's a critical threat to your own life or property. So a fire, or if you're in real distress and need to be rescued," Mew said.

Updates can also be found on the Nova Scotia EMO Twitter page.

Keep warm clothes and blankets handy. Don't use a generator inside. If you use it outside, read the manual now so you know how it works.

Nova Scotia's emergency management office recommends these items for your storm survival kit. (EMO)

Inside, a wood stove or a kerosene heater usually works best. Make sure the chimney is clear. Again, read the kerosene heater manual. Some heaters need to be vented through an open window if used indoors.

Write the Nova Scotia Power outages phone number down on paper (it's 1-877-428-6004). Bookmark the website, including the outage map, which will likely still work if your mobile phone has data. The phone line will be staffed around the clock during the storm.

Tie your stuff down

If the storm brings strong winds, residents should bring in anything that could be picked up, such as patio furniture and garbage cans, or secure them so high winds don't blast them down the street.

"Make sure your pets are indoors and look after your neighbours," Mew said.

Trevor Harvie, superintendent of winter operations for the Halifax Regional Municipality, added a few more ideas.

"Where there could be some power outages, you want to make sure you have some gasoline on hand if you happen to have a generator. Have some batteries, have your cellphone charged up," he said.

"Make sure you check on your neighbour as well. I think that's very important that throughout the storm, that next day, to make sure everything is OK."

Residents are also urged to stay away from the coastline during any severe weather due to dangers associated with potential storm surge.

Once the storm is done, the 100-series highways and other high-traffic roads should be cleared within eight hours. Secondary routes should be clear in 12 hours and tertiary routes, including most residential streets, should be clear within 24 hours. 

If you do get in your car, Halifax Regional Police says drivers must clear any "icebergs" from the roof so they don't fly off and hit another vehicle. Drive slowly and watch out for people walking in the street.

If you're on foot, wear your brightest, warmest clothes and stick to the sidewalk as much as you can. 

When you shovel out, don't dump it in the street — it's illegal and can be unsafe.