Preparing for an El Niño Winter

Forecasts say that the weather will get bumpy for the coming months. Record breaking rains and drought conditions throughout the globe. There are areas below-normal temperature and above-normal snow and ice which we deeply fear.

“If El Niño rainfall predictions are correct, this fall and winter could be the answer to drought-relief prayers. As with everything in life, however, be careful what you wish for,” said the L.A. Times. “While there is a chance precipitation will be only moderate, there is also the possibility of powerful, drenching rainstorms that can quickly create trouble on many fronts. It’s time to get your head in the game.”

But how can you prepare for what’s coming? It will be four years of no rain and water restrictions have left you blocked out for storm preparedness.

Here are some tips to go:

Check for roof leaksCheck Roof for Leaks

We should check the roof for leaks every year, but some tend to forget it unless we already have leaks. It’s especially important now because a leaky roof during any type of rain or snow is a big problem.

“At least scan it closely with binoculars,” said Kiplinger. “Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow. If your roof is flat and surfaced with asphalt and pebbles, as many are in the Southwest, rake or blow off fall leaves and pine needles, which hold moisture,” says Bill Richardson, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, in Albuquerque.

Extra precaution must be taken consideration most specifically those in areas where heavy rain is expected. Try installing removable downspout adapters and flexible drain coils to the gutter system’s downspouts to guide water away from the foundation.


Seal up air leaks in other parts of the homeWeatherstripping

Cold weather = higher electric bills. It’s great if we could keep the cold out and lower your electric bills at the same time. Try using silicone caulk for exteriors. Kiplinger says it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements. You can also check window-glazing putty which seals the glass into the window frame. Add weatherstripping as needed around the doors. According to Wikipedia, weatherstipping is the process of sealing openings such as doors, windows, and trunks from the elements. The goal of weatherstripping is to prevent rain and water from entering entirely or partially and accomplishes this by either returning or rerouting water. A secondary goal of weatherstripping is to keep interior air in, thus saving energy on heating and air conditioning. Make sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home.


Order a home energy auditHome Energy Audit

A home energy audit is often the first step in making your home more efficient. An audit can help you assess how much energy your home uses and evaluate what measures you can take to improve efficiency. But remember, audits alone don’t save energy. You need to implement the recommended improvements. So, if you really want to see where tightening up your home can save you money, this will do it. It’s applicable to this time of year to protect you against a cold winter.


Check your guttersCheck your Gutters

Gutters are also known as a “rain catcher.” It is a narrow channel or trough, forming the component of a roof system which collects and diverts rainwater away from the roof edge. “Gutters are your roof’s first line of storm defense,” said the Sacramento Bee. “They’re designed to channel rain off the roof.” The gutter also helps to reduce erosion, prevents leaks in basements and crawlspaces, protects painted or stained surfaces by reducing exposure to water, and provides a means to collect rainwater for later use. Clogged gutters can cause water leakage into the building as the water backs up and it can also lead to stagnant water build up which allows mosquitos to breed and also allows grasses and weeds to grow in the gutter. It should be maintained regularly to remove leaves and other debris to keep them from clogging. Gutters that are filled with debris can overflow and soak the foundation, damage the roof structure, and worsen ice dams in cold climates.


Test your heaterTest your Heater

Failing heater on the coldest day? Not cool! You don’t want a non-functioning heat source when it’s literally freezing outside. Having a heater provides thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality.

“For about $80 to $100, a technician will inspect your furnace or heat pump to be sure the system is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage,” said Kiplinger. “If you act soon, you’ll minimize the chance of being 200th in line for repairs on the coldest day of the year.”


Reevaluate your insurance

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Property insurance provides protection against risks to property, such as fire, theft or weather damage. This may include specialized forms of insurance such as fire insurance, flood insurance, earthquake insurance, home insurance, inland marine insurance or boiler insurance. Flood insurance protects against property loss due to flooding. Many U.S. insurers do not provide flood insurance in some parts of the country. In response to this, the federal government created the National Flood Insurance Program which serves as the insurer of last resort. Consider getting a flood insurance most especially if you’re in an area that is predicted to have extensive rains this winter. Review your policy to check what winter-related damage is covered and consider a change if it doesn’t seem appropriate.


Invest in a generator

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Engine-generators are available in a wide range of power ratings. These include small, hand-portable units that can supply several hundred watts of power, hand-cart mounted units, that can supply several thousand watts and stationary or trailer-mounted units that can supply over a million watts. Regardless of the size, generators may run on gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, bio-diesel, water, sewage gas or hydrogen. Check if you are in a neighborhood susceptible to power outages. If you are, consider buying a portable generator or even a permanently standby generator that immediately comes up when the power goes out.


Check the perimeter of your homesandbags for flooding

Look out for areas where water and snow could pool, which might be threatening to get inside the home. One quick fix for this is sandbags. A sandbag is made of hessian, polypropylene or other sturdy materials that is filled with sand or soil and used for such purposes as flood control, military fortification, shielding glass windows in war zones, ballast, and in other applications requiring mobile fortification. Sandbags are not always effective in preventing flooding though, because water will eventually seep through the bags and finer materials, like clay, may leak out through the seams. After usage, dry sandbags can be stored for future use. Wet bags may need to be disposed in a landfill as they may be contaminated by chemicals and fecal matter. In your yard, “Landscape architect and USC adjunct professor Bob Perry advises placing 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch in beds and areas where water will drain or collect,” said the L.A. Times.


Shut off sprinklerssprinkler

You might want to turn your sprinklers off during the rainy and winter season. They may not be needed at all for several months. And in areas that freeze, it could result in a frozen tundra on your lawn and develop unwanted bacteria wandering in the lawn.


Test your fireplacefireplace maintenance

It can be dangerous having a poorly functioning fireplace as this may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. Have a professional chimney sweep inspect and clean your fireplace, wood stove, and chimney at least once a year – chimney tar build up can ignite your chimney, roof, and the whole house. Keep the fire in the fireplace by making sure you have a screen large enough to catch flying sparks and rolling logs. Use only seasoned wood, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash for your fireplace. Never use flammable liquids to start or accelerate fire. Make sure you have a properly functioning Carbon Monoxide alarm.


Prevent frozen pipes from freezingfrozen_pipes

Disconnect all gardening hoses and install covers on all outside faucets. Keep your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher or you can shut the water off completely, even if you’re leaving the house for an extended period of time. Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to circulate.


Keep cash on handsaving-for-a-rainy-day

Weather-related emergencies, roof leaks or your car gets stuck on an icy road; you’ll be needing money on hand. Credit card machines may not be working at this time. So be prepared for anything; time to carry some cash regularly, just for certain emergencies.


Charge it!charge gadgets

If a storm is coming that may bring power outages, fully charge your cell phone, laptop, and any other devices in advance of a power outage. Get into the habit of charging them fully whenever possible. Keep extra batteries for your phone in a safe place or purchase a solar-powered or hand crank charger. These chargers are good emergency tools to keep your laptop and other small electronics working in the event of a power outage. If you own a car, purchase a car phone charger because you can charge your phone if you lose power at your home.


Buy winter supplieswinter supplies

You should have enough supplies to survive without leaving your house for a few days, as well as tools to help you leave if necessary. “You don’t want to wait until the first storm of the year to buy your snow removal gear and salt,” said Apartment Therapy. “You’ll be prepared when the initial flakes come down, and you won’t have to vie for the last shovel on the shelf at the hardware store.”


Shove up your emergency suppliesDisaster-supplies-kit

You can stock up on these necessities: a shovel; flashlights and batteries; candles; non-perishable food; food for your animals; a cooler with some extra ice (in the event refrigerators aren’t functioning); bottled water; blankets and warm clothing; a camping stove or grill; matches (to light up your gas range/camping stove/candles); a battery operated radio; prescription medications; a first-aid kit; a cellphone with cord or a portable cellphone charger; anything else vital to your household; and lastly, make sure your car is full of gas (you may need to go out before everything is operational).

Here’s what Real Simple recommends keeping in your pantry:

  • Peanut butter
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Nuts and trail mixes
  • Multigrain cereal – individually packaged versions are best so they’ll stay fresh
  • Granola bars and power bars
  • Dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins
  • Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, or turkey – make sure to stock a can opener that isn’t electric or buy the pop-top cans
  • Canned vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, and peas
  • Canned soups and chili
  • Bottled water – “Try to stock at least a three-day supply. You need at least one gallon per person per day.”
  • Sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade
  • Powdered milk
  • Multivitamins



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