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Surviving Virginia’s New Year’s Snowstorm, by K.A.A.

Unlike many of you, I am an average suburbanite, not a hardcore prepper living on a homestead in the country. My family needs to stay where we are because of my husband’s work. So we are making the best of living a short distance from Washington, DC. We are generally well-prepared for the typical emergencies experienced in northern Virginia, such as severe thunderstorms and hurricanes. But we were caught mostly unprepared for the unusually severe snowstorm that we had in early January, 2022. This storm delivered 14-inches of snow where I live and stranded hundreds of drivers, including one of Virginia’s US Senators, for over 20 hours on a 50-mile stretch of I-95, which was rendered impassable by the storm. I am going to share our successes, failures, and lessons learned from this experience to help others who live in suburbia and may face a similar situation.

We had been out of state on vacation for Christmas and New Year’s for over two weeks when we saw that some snow was expected at home. We decided to return early to avoid the bad traffic that results from any precipitation as we live in one of the worst traffic areas of the country. We returned late on Sunday night and didn’t do any food shopping. We weren’t concerned because any snow that is forecast usually falls short of what we actually get. We woke up the next morning to heavy snow falling at a rate of over one inch per hour. By the storm’s end, we received over a foot of heavy, wet snow. To give some perspective, where we live a few inches is a big deal and causes government shutdowns, closures, traffic accidents, and a general feeling of panic in many people.

Our power lines are mostly underground, so we were surprised when our power went off in the morning during the storm. We ended up being without electricity for almost four days. Unlike hurricanes where the worst we have to worry about is some spoiled food and a hot, humid house, for the first time we had to worry about hypothermia and frozen pipes.

Our central heating system no longer worked. We had no hot water because our tankless gas water heater requires electricity. Our gas stove did not work because safety features prevented us from igniting the burners manually. The only remaining source of heat, our gas fireplace, would not turn on because the power was out. Heavy snow caused several of our trees to fall in our yard and on the neighbor’s fence.

Although the situation was frustrating, we had multiple successes that allowed us to make it through the power outage relatively comfortably.

Along with our many successes, we had several failures:

Our experience with this storm gave us some important lessons learned that we will apply to our future preparedness and hope can help others.

I think my greatest takeaway from this storm is that we have to be prepared for the unusual as well as the typical disasters that happen in our part of the country. I moved to the South thinking that winter is no longer a big deal, but I was wrong! I hope my family’s experience will help you to be better prepared for your next natural disaster.