A polar vortex swept through the southern United States this week, bringing snow and ice storms and record low temperatures that have debilitated the region. Texas in particular has been hit hard, and with an energy infrastructure that's not designed or prepared for such weather, millions of people have been without power for days.
People who aren't used to cold weather, who live in homes that aren't designed to retain heat, who don't have winter gear to keep them warm, are struggling to stay warm without power and heat. Some don't have water, either.
While politicians bicker over who is to blame for the dire situation, Americans are doing what they can to help. For those of us in the north, that means sharing knowledge and experience for how to stay warm when the heat goes out.
Several viral threads on Twitter have proven incredibly helpful as people offer their best tips for handling the frigid temperatures while staying safe. (Sadly, we've seen several deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning—running a car in a garage and heating a home with a charcoal grill are things you should avoid at all costs.)
Twitter user from Michigan @mixbecca shared this bullet list of advice:
- layers of loose fitting clothes will keep you warmer than layers tight -put towels / blankets / etc over windows… https://t.co/cLCEPGLuHw— rebecca mix (@rebecca mix) 1613488618.0
"Okay southern friends / people without power -- as someone who has lived through many, many power outages in negative temps, while the priority is to get somewhere warm if you *can* if you're trapped at home -- here of some of the things that can help:
- Layers of loose-fitting clothes will keep you warmer than layers tight.
- Put towels / blankets / etc over windows, and if you can, choose a "warm room" for all of you to stay in that you can insulate. Shove towels under doors, tape over door frames if possible.
- Keep your hands and feet warm. Put them under your armpits, wrap them if you have to. Wear a hat indoors if needed to keep your ears warm.
- If you still have water, bottles of hot water at the foot of your bed under your sheets will help warm them up / create a "cave" of warmth.
- Turn on ALL your faucets so a teeny, tiny drip is going. Trust me. You DO NOT want your pipes to burst in negative temps. It is an actual nightmare. Someone on my tl was worried about wasting water but you will waste a lot more if you flood your house.
- If you still have gas you can use, a hot pot of water on the stove will help with heat and humidity; dry air indoors in the winter is the worst. Boiling pots of water will help on both ends also.
- Pantyhose are a godsend for layering. Those bitches are WARM. Wearing them under baggy sweatpants or something will make a world of difference. We did this when Michigan got hit with an ice storm and we had no power for a week.
- If you've never had to layer in the cold before, some of the best things you can wear are wool, flannel, silk, and fleece. Moisture-wicking fabrics and natural fibers are ideal for under layers; wool and flannel for top, bc they insulate you but they can't wick moisture away.
- If there are multiple levels to your house, just accept that the top floor is going to be the warmest. Heat rises, cold air sinks. If you have a particularly toasty bedroom it's easier to convert that to a 'warm room' instead of trying to heat the entire house.
- Shut doors to any rooms you don't absolutely need. Stuff towels under the doors. Got an office, a spare bedroom, etc? Seal it off so you're not "wasting" warm air on that room.
- DO NOT: Bring a generator inside. Ever. EVER. And don't run it in your garage, either. Generators have to run 30 ft away from your home; most northerners know this, but we can't expect southerners to.
- During the day, you can pull towels / etc down from windows if you have bright sunlight in and -- this is going to sound silly -- sitting in the sun in dark-colored clothing is a godsend when you're stuck in a freezing ass house.
- Make sure you recover windows at night if you're able to heat foods -- hot foods like tea, soups, etc will help. There's a reason ever ~idyllic~ Christmas movie has folks coming in from the snow to drink hot cocoa and broth, lol. now is the time to live your greatest tea / soup / chili aesthetic dreams.
- If you have pets, you need to monitor them when they're outside. Dogs can get frostbite on their paws; let them out to do their business and bring them back in. Animals are good at letting you know when they're cold, but don't be afraid to make blanket nests / etc for them
- If you're desperate to block drafts and you have them, pool noodles are a godsend. Cut them in half (length-wise not like....down the middle) and wrap them in fabric and jam that shit under your door.
- For bedding, fluffy stuff goes closest to you (goal is to have pockets of warm air!). The thinner and denser the layers of bedding are, the closer they should go to the top. So if you're sleeping with, say, a fluffy duvet and two blankets, duvet touches your skin, blankets on top.
I am literally so sorry for everyone stuck in this position. Being without power in the cold is a nightmare. You'll feel like you're losing your mind, and cold /hurts/.
(tldr: Multiple loose layers, block the drafts, block off as many rooms as possible, and hot drinks, if you can.)"
Others added to the list with their own tips, such as holding hot drinks against your heart to keep your core warm. Limbs will feel the coldest, but keeping the center of your body warm is more important than you'd think.
Also, if you ABSOLUTELY have to drive and you find yourself losing control 1) don't jerk the wheel 2) find the rumb… https://t.co/Qg0DjkBTuV— Kimberly Black (@Kimberly Black) 1613489985.0
Movement warms you up, but you don't want to break a sweat since the moisture will make you colder.
@mixbecca Exercises I've done: - rotating my arms - swinging them from side to side - high steps - any kind of stre… https://t.co/EGKFYt1JX9— Coryl Addy (@Coryl Addy) 1613491076.0
Other tips include:
- Melt snow in buckets to use for flushing toilets if your water is shut off.
- Your hot water tank holds a lot of fresh water. If your water is shut off, you can drain it from your water heater
- Line windows with cardboard for insulation. Saran wrap window edges. Bubble wrap works as insulation as well.
- Depending on the outdoor temperature, you can put food in plastic bins or coolers out in the snow.
- Stay hydrated. Your body uses a lot of energy just to stay warm, and your body regulates its temperature more effectively if it's properly hydrated.
- Hats are a must. You lose a lot of heat out of your head.
- If you must drive somewhere, go slower than you think you should, and don't slam on your breaks. If you lose control, don't turn the wheel sharply. Try to stay along the rumble strip on the side of the road where you have more traction.
- Check on neighbors, especially if they live alone and/or are elderly.
- Again, don't run the car in the garage and don't use a barbecue indoors. If you have a gas oven, don't use it to heat the house. Carbon monoxide poisoning is real.
@ACanadensis @mixbecca Also do not leave a gas powered oven or stove on for heat; boiling pots of water is good, bu… https://t.co/j5Y0idN3Bx— mirmiration (@mirmiration) 1613528616.0
People in Texas have expressed gratitude for the tips, in addition to being thankful for people not making fun of those who are struggling.
@mixbecca We’ve literally done everything you said lol, we’ve sealed off more rooms and layered our blankets better… https://t.co/4W8F232ewe— erin 💙 (@erin 💙) 1613524622.0
It's heartening to see people coming together virtually to help strangers who live thousands of miles away, reaching out with sympathy and solidarity.
@AprilMackWrites @mixbecca We Northerners have had to deal with this before,10 days once for me. It’s never fun and… https://t.co/0F26EY0cFh— ceanoyes (@ceanoyes) 1613525352.0
Anyone who's experienced a power outage during the winter knows how brutal the cold can be. And since folks in Texas and other southern spots aren't used to or prepared for it, handling that situation is even harder.
Hang in there, southern friends. We're hoping this crisis passes soon for you all.
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