People from states with harsh winters are sharing tips with Texans for staying safe and warm
Photo: Canva, @mixbecca/Twitter

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:


"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.

Movement warms you up, but you don't want to break a sweat since the moisture will make you colder.

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.

People in Texas have expressed gratitude for the tips, in addition to being thankful for people not making fun of those who are struggling.

It's heartening to see people coming together virtually to help strangers who live thousands of miles away, reaching out with sympathy and solidarity.

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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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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