> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Polar Vortex - One the Doomsday Preppers forgot about!



Polar Vortex - One the Doomsday Preppers forgot about!

Crazy, friggin' cold weather today. I grew up in Canuckistan (Canada) and now live in the South East U.S., so *cold* here isn't exactly like the freeze-your-nostrils cold I remember. But, they don't exactly build homes here to handle weather this cold 'round here, either.

One of our furnaces kicked off some time in the night. Diagnosis - the vent tube had filled with a cup or two worth of water, causing the furnace to shutdown after a few minutes of running. Drained it out and it is working again fine for the past 6 hours. We'll see how long that lasts. Downstairs never got below 62 degrees, so no biggie.

We moved from Arizona to the Southeast and had one whole day of snow last winter, so cold weather gear hasn't exactly been at the top of our list. Plenty o' blankets, warm sleeping bags, a roof over our head and a fireplace are what we've got.

The wife complained that she didn't even have a good winter coat, which I'm not entirely convinced is true.  Could be a ploy to buy a new jacket. She's tricky like that.

You folks who live in northern, frigid climes are probably more prepared with winter gear than those of use who live in the more southern parts of the country. Piles of winter clothes, heaters, woodpiles and vast supplies of fuel, I hope.

This has made me consider adding a propane heater to the list - but don't know a whole lot about the ins and out of them, not killing the family with carbon monoxide and all that. With warm winters, two gas furnaces, a fireplace and layers-a-plenty, it'd likely never get used. A few kerosene lanterns might be more practical and see more use. If you've got recommendations, I'd listen.

Anyways, curious to here what others are experiencing and dealing with. Any preps pay off? Has the polar vortex made you reconsider or adjust?


  1. I live near Cleveland, OH. We did not get much snow the last few days, but the windchill was -30 F today. At home we are pretty prepared (even though I would have never expected -30F). The problem is traveling. They have stopped laying salt on the roads as it does not do anything for the ice in this cold. The slush buildup in the wheel-well of my car turned to a solid block of ice overnight. Generally a good kick loosens it, but not this morning. Attempting to drive with the block of ice in the wheel-well made a horrible sound and can't be good for the tire. It took about 30 minutes to carefully chip away at the ice (quite the task in -30F). Luckily, I had purchased a small handled pointed shovel a few weeks ago to keep in my trunk (less than $10 at Harbor Freight).

  2. STL here, I wore layer 1,2,3,4 of ecwcs all day Monday in -6 temps, plowing with my atv everything stayed warn except my face, had the cold weather sleep system in the truck but didn't need it thankfully. Wife is loving her patagonia down parka I got her for Christmas.

  3. We have been lulled by too many mild winters and are shocked at how we CAN GET COMPLETELY SNOWED IN FOR DAYS! We have fared well but know of some who have not. I hope this is a wake up call to some of the scoffers.... On another note, our financial situation has been going steadily downhill for the past 2 years and we are at the make it or lose it point. My husband (who has been a silent observer of my "prepping") is grateful now and we plan to live on our preps so as to not lose our house. ~Ms E in Michigan

  4. I too live in the south east. It has not been this cold (lows last night was 13) here in at least this decade and probably the last 2. I know it wasn't cold compared to a lot of places, but with the wind chill down in the single and maybe even negatives some of the time (getting up before dawn to hunt), it felt extreme. I used most all my warm clothes (jacket, long johns, pants, wool socks and regular socks, boots jacket, coveralls, hats and scarf) when I was up early hunting and stayed really warm. I feel I was pretty well prepared, but if I didn't hunt, probably not. We also have a fireplace, but we have a long house, and the fireplace is at one end (the same one as the thermostat) so it gets really cold in the back of the house.

  5. One of the consequences of the cold being really cold is that it further chills the ground making it take longer to heat up in the spring. The longer it takes to heat up the shorter the growing season and the shorter the growing season the more difficult it would make things for you to be self sufficient. The cold also causes cold stress on animals and for those which usual overwinter outdoors in mild weather one might need to look at quartering them during polar vortex cold weather. This is very expensive and if the animals have any brains then they get very bored shut into a small area with little to entertain them. Also a bored intelligent billy goat can not only be very smelly. He can make a lot of trouble.

  6. We moved to a farm a few years ago, for many reasons, but being more able to take care of ourselves foremost among them. We breed and milk Jersey cows, keep pigs and rabbits, and raise various types of poultry. Our weather is usually fairly mild here in Kentucky; we tend to get cold spells, but nothing like this polar vortex. In the days before the cold settled in, we made sure all the small animal housing was snug, and the cows' water tanks were filled to the brim and with floating heaters running. But in the wee hours of Monday morning, as I lay in bed listening to the wind howl around our home, I made the last minute call to keep all the livestock (and small children!) indoors.

    If I'd made that call just a few hours in advance, I could have gotten a water tank moved into the barn, but I didn't and had to do that in the -20 wind. Then, because the outside water lines were not functional, we had to carry water in buckets from the house. Lots of extra work!

    Also, we don't have a front door on our barn. Just a gate. With the back (north-side) door closed, we don't get any wind through there, but the real temperature was still -4, and that's still extremely cold for milking time. It takes 45 minutes for us to care for five cows and milk two, which was too long for us to be out there in the clothing we have. More wool socks are needed. I wore a store bought pair and a pair my daughter knit for me and didn't feel the cold in my toes, but my (milking buddy) girls could use some warmer socks. And usually, we can just wear fleece leggings under our jeans and be warm enough, but that just wasn't cutting it. Some of those insulated, pull-over, farmer trousers might be in order.

    Oh, and those water tank heaters didn't work in the extreme cold. The heated tanks had two inches of ice on them Monday morning, six by Tuesday afternoon, when the cold had begun to abate. I have no idea how thick it is on their unheated neighbors.

    Other than that, we had firewood, we prepared for a power outage, since there was also supposed to be some snow or ice that never came, and we have plenty of games and books to keep us occupied. The younger children got pretty rowdy, having no place to go to expend their boundless energy, but we survived. They are really looking forward to getting back outside today!

  7. As far as propane heaters go, you cant go wrong with a Mr Buddy brand. Pick one up a couple of years ago as a back up heat source and have been more than please with it.

  8. Speaking on emergency back up heat sources. I have a primitive cabin in the mountains that I use this set up in and I have one at my home for a backup heat source if I lose power. I use the mr heater buddy brand heater. I use the middle level heater that be gotten for a little under a hundred bucks. It takes the one pound LP cylinders or can be hooked up to a larger tank. I use a hose and the required fuel filter to hook it up to a 20lb LP tank at my cabin. The 20lb tanks lasts a good long time when run on low and puts of plenty of heat to keep my 300 sq ft cabin warm. The best thing is that this heater is rated for indoor use and has a low oxygen shut off function. May not be the best option but for the price and ease of portability works great for my needs. Note that the fuel filter needs to be used when using a hose to hook to a larger tank to avoid clogging the ceramic heating element.

  9. i lived here off n on for 50 years, and this cold is nothing new, just been a while. when i was younger it got well below zero every year for a couple of weeks then warmed back up. we have had ten or fifteen warm winters so people forgot how bad it can get. hell, in high school our gang piled into a vw bug and drove across the lake doing donuts all day. that lake hasn't frozen in 20 years. REAL scientific study shows earth is geetting colder and that the sun is the main driver,which is going into a 11 cooling cycle. 11 years of this,brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  10. up in Canukistan it has been freeze your nostrils cold over the past week. We also had an ice storm that knocked my power out for 11 hours. I had the power pack batter back up for the cell phones etc, then I noticed.. I have no heat source without hydro!!! of to the local canadian tire and I grabbed one of these


    Worked great after the wick was ready to go. I found I was getting about 8 hours out of a tank and it was keeping the house warm enough. Well worth it if you don't have any indoor heat that doesn't require hydro.. and it is made for inside so you wont kill your family with carbon monoxide.

  11. Somebody mentioned the Mr. Buddy heaters. I've heard good things about them but have never used one. I did however, grow up in a house with a mixture of propane and wood heat.

    If you are considering something more permanent than the Mr Buddy type set up, I would recommend going with one of the smaller, locally managed (and most likely an independently owned franchise) propane companies as opposed to one of the huge companies that service the Southeast. Tank rental is about 40 to 50 bucks a year for a 250 gallon tank. If you're using it for reserve heat, that much could last for a while. Sign an agreement with them and they set your tank, run the line(s) and check it all out for you to make sure it's working. The they fill your tank as often as you need it.

    Most newer heaters have the "infrared" technology which basically gives you more mileage, so to speak, out of the propane. They don't burn with an open blue flame like the heaters of old, therefore they are more efficient. (And safer - many are vent-less with CO emergency shutoffs.)

    Also, if you shop around, you can buy a 250 or even 500 gallon tank at a decent price and have it installed then purchase your gas from whomever is cheaper at the moment.But you still have to have someone to install and set up your heater, gas line, etc if you're unfamiliar with the process.

    Either way, this type of system, whether for primary heat/cooking or as a back up, is tried and true.

    And at the risk of sounding like Hank Hill, propane is a good !!

  12. WalMart has indoor propane heaters

  13. Don't forget to insulate. Houses are built differently up here in the north. It sure makes the heat last longer. R-42 in the attic and at least R-19 in the walls. Seal gaps and bubble wrap with plastic sheeting with heavy curtains on windows helps. Most heat loss is at windows and around doors or even wall outlets. Seal it up.

  14. Anyone using indoor heaters should invest in a few battery CO2 alarms. Many poor people who cannot afford electricity die from CO2 poisoning. Better safe than sorry.

    Check on the older citizens, many have extra stress during this time and can get sick very quickly. Just the knowledge that someone cares to check in on them is keeps them upbeat - Attitude really does mean a lot.

  15. My last house in CT i installed (probably not to code) a 50yr old Godin (sp) french parlor stove that came out of an old farm house in Pa. I reglassed the inside and replaced the door gasket with the standard rope kit at any good stove store. You had to chop the wood to around 12" but the stove was built for COAL which is hands down the best bang for your buck from a btu output. Sure, prop and kero are easy, but for all practical purposes, a 25lb of coal for 11 bucks is going to last a good week when supplemented with wood. Just a thought…go old and simple

  16. Mr. Buddy heaters are good to go. Can be used indoors. This and a supply of propane will keep you toasty. Co detectors are a great idea!

  17. You have a lot of recommendations above however I am am going throw in my 10c in case you ar eon the fence about anything. I've used all of these methods recently. Each their own pros and cons..

    First, buy several CO detectors and keep them on hand with fresh batteries. They are cheap so get several in case one wonks out.

    The Mr buddy is rated for indoor use. In anything but a few hour of use you will wish to use the 20lb tanks used in most gas grills. BTUs are okay and fuel handling is super simple. Plus, propane stores as long as the integrity of the bottle/tank is maintained

    Kersosene, like the big 23k BTI models sold as various brands, are great for whole house heating. I have a 3600 sq foot house with an upstairs heat up. Once the heat gets close to freeze the devise is freaking worthless and just burns of electricity for marginal heat. Cranking up this guy will heat up my entire upstairs (operates downstairs and heat naturally rises up via balcony to upstairs bedrooms). The tank last only 9 hours and you have to deal with a liquid fuel but the heat is incredible. A plus side, K1 stores for a while and essentially never goes bad if you keep water out of it. Even then it may be filtered. The smell is marginal but fuel management is more effort then propane.

    As a third option you may consider ventless gas logs in a fireplace. They put out 40k BTUs. Depending on your setup it may even heat your whole house if the power is out. Of course, in a shtf situation, natural gas will be gone.

  18. I live just south of Canuckistan in Northern New York. It has been a long and very cold winter here so far. We have had more lake effect snow than we have had in years. My husband installed an old wood stove, just in case, in the fall. We haven't had to use it, but it's there. There have been a lot of blackouts in the area this winter. And none of them are ever really explained.
    My folks had one of the natural gas fireplaces. After a year, they ditched it. It was too expensive and didn't put out enough heat. My Dad went right back to a real wood burning stove.
    Honestly, layering and hats are how we survive winter here. You wear a hat when you are in the house and move a lot. It does wonders to keep you warm!