How Do You Stay Warm if the Power Goes Out?

A look at ice forming on the powerline during the previous Feb. 12 storm.

By Brian Carlton

February 18, 2021

Ice storm expected to knock out power across the Commonwealth. Here are some tips to stay warm.

BLACKSBURG-People woke up early Thursday morning to snapping and crackling sounds in some parts of Virginia. Ice fell across the state, knocking down power lines and leaving people in the dark. But while Dominion and Appalachian Power work to get the lights back on, some homes may get a bit cold. In these situations, how do you stay warm? 

The most important thing is what not to do. Don’t look for a quick fix. The Virginia Department of Health and The Centers for Disease Control both urge caution when you’re using alternative heat sources. Maybe it’s a propane heater. Some people use gas-powered generators. The problem is that if you’re not careful, carbon monoxide can build up and kill you. 

If you have a generator, place it in a well-ventilated area, with the exhaust directed away from your house. Also, never run the generator inside. Hook it up outside, where the carbon monoxide can drift away. It may seem counterproductive, but if you’re using a propane or other portable heater, open a window. Again, that exhaust needs a place to go. 

Ways to Stay Warm

Dominion officials early on Thursday sent out a notice, warning residents of extended outages. 

“We encourage customers to monitor the weather forecast closely,” the statement said, “and prepare for outages that could last for multiple days.” 

So if the power does go out, how do you keep from freezing? First, take steps to avoid heat loss. That’s not something we think a lot about, but if the power’s out, you need to trap heat in your home. The National Weather Service and Virginia Office of Emergency Management offer several suggestions. 

  • Roll up a towel and put it at the bottom of all exterior doors. That blocks cold air from getting in. 
  • Keep curtains closed to reduce heat loss through windows. 
  • Close as many rooms as possible. Smaller spaces are easier to heat up than large ones. 
  • Try to stay in one room. If possible, rooms on higher floors are better. Why? Heat rises and upper ceilings tend to be better-insulated. 
  • Bring your blankets, sleeping bags and flashlights. If the power outage continues for an extended period, especially overnight, put on multiple layers of loose-fitting clothes. That includes a hat, so you don’t lose heat through your head. 
  • If you have a tent and enough space to set it up, do so in the room. Put a blanket over it, to trap heat inside. 
  • Be sure to eat and drink, but that doesn’t include caffeine or alcohol.

Report Your Outage Immediately

This is something we can often forget. We assume they’re notified, but to be on the safe side, call immediately when the lights go out.

  • For Dominion, you can call 866-366-4357 or visit their website here.
  • For Appalachian Power, you can call 1-800-956-4237 or go to their website here.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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