It looks like we are in for a cold snowy winter. Forecasters are predicting that it will be "as bad or worse" than last year. On that chipper note, I thought now might be a good time to go over winter prep and talk about some of the essentials you may need. Buffalo, NY, you can laugh at the rest of us for only now talking about getting snowed in when it's old hat for you.
If you lose power, your first immediate concern is going to be a source of heat. Generators will often not power a strong enough heater to keep your house warm so think about shutting off bedrooms and camping out together in a shared space. This is where your open floor plan isn't as practical as you thought. When we were without power for a week, we hung blankets across open doorways and hunkered down in our living room. We were able to keep that room 20-30 degrees warmer than the rest of the house with very little effort.
Keep enough wood (dry seasoned firewood. Duraflame logs may look pretty but they don't produce very much heat) for several days of fires or fill a 5-10 gallon container of kerosene for your kerosene heater.
Grab any snow removal and limb removal equipment you may need before the storm hits. Trudging through a foot of snow to get to your shovel isn't as much fun as it sounds. It may be inconvenient to have it sitting right next to the front door for the night but you won't regret it when you can walk out your door and start shoveling right away. If you have an attached garage, even better. Don't forget your preferred method for dealing with ice whether it be cat litter or rock salt. Have a bag at the entrance to your house so you don't have to go down the icy steps in order to get to it.
Food and Water
Make sure your faucets are dripping and and cabinet doors are open if the temperature is below freezing. If your pipes are prone to freezing, keep several gallons of water around. Sure, you can melt your own if there's enough snow on the ground but it's easier (and warmer) to stay inside and grab a plastic container. When it's cold, it's easy to forget to drink enough water so make sure you keep it accessible and drink often. In the freezing temperatures, I like my water best when it's hot and filled with chocolate mix.
We keep a camping stove and fuel ready with several easy to prepare meals like dried pasta or Ramen. But, if you have time to run to the store before the storm, I recommend not buying things for meals. Buy zero prep items like oranges, apples, carrot, crackers, sliced meats and cheeses. Think finger foods and fill up on mini gherkins. You'll find that you don't want to cook much when the kitchen is freezing and you have to hand wash all of the dishes (possibly with bottled water if your pipes are frozen).
Flashlights. I like the mini hand crank kind so you don't have to worry about running out of juice.
Extra batteries for any gear you will use
First Aid Kit
Refills for any medication you might need
Baby supplies if you have an infant. Noise cancelling headphones (for you) if you have older kids who will go stir crazy after only a few hours and spend most of their time screaming loudly. Trust me; noise cancelling headphones.
Can opener (if necessary)