A Big Nor'easter Is Forecast. What to Do Right Now

A checklist for preparing for that massive snowstorm that's on its way


  1. Shelter. Decide if you should stay or go to someplace safer. If there's a mandated evacuation notice: LEAVE.

  2. Water! Fill up all the containers in the house AND the bathtub. If you've got time, buy critical backup containers like a 55-gallon drum or 3.5-gallon containers that easily stack up under your bed or in a closet.

  3. Power & lights. Plug in your phones, rechargeable batteries, power packs, and travel chargers. And make sure you have lots of backup flashlights and, preferably, battery- and/or solar- lanterns.

  4. Food. Take inventory of what you've got. Get to the grocery store early, if at all possible. (Even better, stock up on long-lasting food beforehand.)

  5. Gas! On that grocery run, stop and fill up your gas tank. Fill up other gasoline containers, too, if you've got them.

  6. Plan! Talk to loved ones about their plans and locations. Better to know now because cellphone coverage may go down. Besides, storms love company. A good opportunity to snuggle.

  7. Secure your house or apartment. Put away anything outside. If you've got storm shutters, put them up.

  8. Stock up! Do you still have time? Buy or order critical supplies like lanterns, flashlights, and backup food. See the suggested Essential Hurricane Gear List below.


Okay, let's dive a bit deeper.

1. Leave or stay?

If you live in a coastal area, you need to pre-plan an evacuation route. Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation area, and familiarize yourself with hurricane evacuation routes. If there is a mandatory evacuation in your area, leave, baby, leave! But, really, we suggest getting out early whenever possible. It's very wise to figure out likely places before a storm approaches, whether it's the in-laws in the Midwest or, perhaps more enticingly, Napa Valley. (Maybe another beach location isn't the best idea in hurricane season.) Take a few vacation days and use those handy airline miles and get yourself in a place away from that affected coast. Trust us, your friends won't think you're foolish — they'll just be jealous of the Facebook pics of you doing something better than waiting out a terrible storm.

Take a few vacation days and use those handy airline miles and get yourself away. Friends will be jealous of the Facebook pics of you doing something better than waiting out a terrible storm.

Sometimes you may not have that option. You'll need to keep abreast of the weather and mandatory evacuations. Your cell will likely get updates, BUT cell phone coverage and electricity will often go out. We highly suggest investing in a radio (like this one) that tunes into the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards network, which is a nationwide network of radio stations that give updates from the nearest National Weather Service office.

If you haven't gotten clear out of town, you might consider community shelters or FEMA safe rooms. Otherwise, according to Ready.gov (which has a great page on hurricanes here), go to a "small, interior, windowless room or hallway on the lowest floor that is not subject to flooding." And, "if trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water."

2. Water needs.

Yeah, it may seem like there's water everywhere, especially as the sea swells and buckets of the stuff fall onto your head. But it's truly important to remember that when the lights go out, so will your water sources. And even when the water recedes, it may take days or weeks (or longer) to get electricity and water back.

If you've got time, go to Amazon or REI and get extra and long-lasting water storage solutions like this 55-gallon drum — which is good for houses with storage — or WaterBrick 3.5-gallon containers, which are better for apartments and smaller spaces. But, we highly recommend also getting camp-style filters, which will allow you to turn dirty water into clean water.

Our go-to company is LifeStraw, which sell filters that will remove out all kinds of impurities. The Flex straw eliminates bacteria and even some lead, while the Mission is better for family use, as its bag holds up to 3.1 gallons. Either way, these are key for times when you run out of stored water.

3. Power play.

We can pretty much guarantee that when it comes to a big storm, at least some of us will lose power. So plug in your phones. But also consider in investing in potent power packs like the options available from Goal Zero. We like the 150-watt like the Yeti.

Lights will also be key. Dependable flashlights are important, but even more key may be lanterns that run for many, many hours. That way you can eat and read in the evening hours more easily. The Goal Zero Lighthouse is solar powered and also has a hand crank, and can also juice up your cell. (For lots more info on battery and power options, see Preparation Concierge's dedicated advice and gear section on Lights, Power, & Warmth.)  

4. Food Fight.

You don't want to get in one — when a storm hits, there's always that last-minute scramble at local supermarkets. Worse, those shelves may remain bare for weeks, because any disruption in truck delivery service to supermarkets can have a ripple effect. Consider stocking up on easy to prepare staples like oatmeal, energy bars, and peanut butter. Mountain House sells emergency food that is surprisingly tasty — and can prepared in the packages themselves, just add boiling water. The 14-day supply kit does just what is promised: It's good for one person for two weeks, and makes a good investment.

Do remember: When you are stocking up, consider that your electricity may be out. What source does your stove run off of? Even boiling water may become an issue. For emergency food and cooking advice, go here.

5. Got gas?

Get some! Fill up all your vehicles as soon as any storm is forecast. You don't want to be in one of those gas lines. Misery personified.

6. Make a plan with the family.

Talk to your family and come up with a comprehensive emergency plan. Imagine scenarios such as the cell network going down. (A very likely scenario in many disaster situations.) Who picks up the kids? Where will you meet if you can't reach your own home? Pick a second location nearby if your family can't meet at home. Then figure out where your away shelter will be — and how you'll reach that location. Imagine that some bridges or freeways might be closed or deadlocked with traffic. And even discuss how you might get to that away shelter by foot, as a family. Decide all this stuff now, over the kitchen table, so you won't be left wondering at some future date — at the point when you wish you had discussed the important stuff.

7. Secure your stuff.

Your home is vulnerable. Try to reduce damage from high winds or flooding. The Red Cross suggests: 1. Protect windows with permanent storm shutters or pre-cut marine plywood to fit over doors and windows. 2. Removing items that can blow away, such as lawn furniture, toys, gardening tools, and trash cans. Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts to prevent flooding and unnecessary pressure on the awnings. 3. Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances. 4. Move valuables to higher floors of your home.

About us: Preparation Concierge is devoted to emergency planning and disaster preparation. We offer users level 101 information and advice, and a smartly curated list of gear, food, and water solutions.We take a particular interest in urban and suburban areas — these populations are especially fragile and susceptible to disasters, and are often the most unprepared.

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