The recent polar vortex which has hit the US and Canada recently has made me feel fortunate to already live in a place where we are in a constant polar vortex. But, I thought I would share some of my thoughts and experiences for anyone out there who needs to hear it.
Food and supplies
Since moving back to North Park, there are a few things that I am having to retrain my brain on. Unlike living in a city of 100,000 people, in the town of Walden, which hits a high water mark of about 570 (just going to spitball that estimate) and is situated at 8100ft in elevation, sixty miles from the nearest town with services…planning is very important.
For one thing, you need to be aware of your food stores. If you don’t have something in your cabinets you need, either you need to improvise, or just do without it. We live in what is called a “food desert” which means that two grocery stores, one of which is a Family Dollar, mean that you don’t have a lot of what you will be looking for unless you drive an hour to the next nearest store.
This is why it is critical that you make lists. Go through your cabinets, see what you have, plan according to what you have, what you will need for your weekly (bi-weekly, or monthly) menu, and go from there. Here you could invest in GameStop stock with the price of milk and cheese, if they have any. Dry goods keep a long time, and though the nutritional value of a can of greenbeans is probably higher from eating the can itself, canned and frozen veggies and fruits can be your friend.
Sometimes the roads are rough, or closed. You need to plan and prepare for that too. Avalanches might cause road closures for days on end, so you have to be flexible and creative at times when it comes to choosing your route. Plows don’t always run 24/7, and high winds can shut a road down with drifts in a matter of hours.
Always make sure you have good all-weather tires, chains, or studded snowtires (in the winter months). Some years, every month is a potential winter month. In 2019, we got a foot of wet, icy snow on the pass on June 23. I remember this date because my son and I were shivering in a tent for a lot of it during a Cub Scout camp trip. At least there weren’t any mosquitoes.
Since the South has been shut down, most of it from icy highways, fallen electrical lines, and freezing pipes, here is a pro tip of someone who grew up in a cold climate for those of you who break out the Carharts when you can see your breath. Leave your taps open just a trickle. The continuous flow of water from your freshwater supply and out to your sewer will prevent your pipes from freezing.
When I was a kid, you could always tell whose pipes had frozen because the Town would have to dig up their street, pile old tires onto the water pipes, and burn them to thaw them out. Otherwise, the pipes running to that house might be frozen until the end of May. You only do this ONCE. You won’t need a better reminder.
You can also run a small electrical heater underneath the cabinets to make sure the lines stay warm enough, though this can get expensive. The internal temp of your house should still be fine even if it drops into the 40s. Just let the taps run a little. The best way to gauge this is to let the cold water valve run to a thin, steady stream and tighten it down until the stream juuuuuust becomes drops.
Keep your phone batteries charged, your fuel tanks in your cars topped off, and put extra blankets in your car. I usually pack snacks for calories in the event of a breakdown or if I need to walk a few miles to get help. Your body is pretty good at keeping itself warm if you can fuel your internal furnace.
It might be a good idea to carry a bag of cat litter in your trunk. The added weight will give you traction and the litter itself can be used to help you stop spinning on an icy patch of road. When it’s no longer a frictionless nightmare world, use the litter for your cat, oil spots in the driveway, or save it for next time.
Be there to help
This is a good time to help others out. Check on neighbors. Pool your resources. Keep tabs on friends and family who might not be so lucky. Limit your driving, and slow…the hell…down when navigating roads and highways.
This stuff used to be basic knowledge when I was a kid. Hell, for most of Colorado it was, but now with so many people moving in from warmer climates, they don’t understand that we are pretty much at the mercy of the weather…all year long.
I’ve been pretty lucky this year. In spite of our elevation and our isolation, Walden was at 43 degrees F. when the Colorado Front Range was at -15. Mountains make for some really wild weather changes, and forecasts don’t mean much sometimes. But if you use your wits, plan ahead, and come prepared, you’ll pull through it okay.