Winter Storm Tips: How to Avoid Storm Stupidity

snow storm in Big Bear results in a state of emergency according to the governator

So, some of us living full-time in Fawnskin endured 36 hours without power–a few still do not have power.

In addition, the fiber optic line was broke during other repairs, and if that was not enough, the cell phone transponders and telephone lines were out—so we were truly off the grid.

Now, I used to a be involved in a couple of disaster preparedness services, in fact I am certified by a couple of national organizations on a very niche part of that service—so I was okay for the short term—which I take for granted and assume most people were prepared too.

You know what ass-u-me means…

After all, we heard about this epic storm for at least a week before it hit.

However, what surprised me was how many people were not prepared for the storm of the consequences of this epic snowfall.

The last time we even came close was in the early 1990s when I lived in a house that faced west and that had three stairs and was a ¼ block away from the main road into town so I could get anywhere I wanted easily.

Not so in this storm. I have 44 stairs up the side of a hill and a long slope down to the main road…all I can say is that I was really tired each night and am very sore from all the exertion to keep my walkway open.

During storms our understaffed county and state road departments prioritize the main highways so supplies can make it up into town so our roads were left unplowed. This makes is tough going to get anywhere—and when the snow gets over a foot deep I always wonder why people think it is still okay to drive.

It isn’t! I saw at least three stranded vehicles on my storm walk to check the power lines etc. This means that the plows would not be able to get to us at all!

This is why most full-time residents will park down town and hoof it up to their cabins during heavy storms.

Anyway, this storm rendered all three routes closed and, in a real show of storm stupidity, a lot of people got themselves stuck on those roads despite storm warnings, chain restrictions, etc.

This posed a few problems, it necessitated rescue personnel’s time and resources to rescue stranded passengers, blocked snow plows which further complicated matters.

I have to say that, beyond the stupidity, it was downright selfish on the part of those wanting to make it up to a place where the roads were impassable, power was out, and supplies in short supply.

Tsk, tsk.

Now, imagine my surprise when my neighbor complained about not having enough wood and that they would freeze that night because of it.

Never mind that a neighbor down the road sells the stuff and it would not have been easy to get the wood, but it was possible but I had to wonder what planet he was on to not have enough wood when a huge storm was coming?

Other neighbors I happened to meet at the Fawnskin Market were seeking food items since they apparently were not prepared. They didn’t have enough at the house to feed all of them—nor did they have an alternate heat source.


Another surprise for many is that when the power goes out, the fuel pumps don’t work, and if you have central heating—there is no electricity to run that or the electric water heater.

When I lived in the redwood country, we all canned and had wood stoves as our heating and cooking sources. Oil lamps were kept as a matter of course.

In most cases, we were hit by rainstorms but most of the people I knew were savvy enough to prepare—especially when the nearest source for food or supplies was about 30 miles down the road.

So, I guess I gave a lot of locals a bit more credit than was due and so thought it might be a good idea to mention a few items to have on hand when entering the winter wonderland formerly known as Big Bear Valley.

First, if you are coming up to the mountains, you should have chains—full stop. I don’t care if you have a super duper four-wheel drive with a lift kit—have the chains.

Two of the main highways were closed for long periods of times because of idiots who didn’t have chains or didn’t think that they needed them because the highway chain restriction signs were not designating that they did.

Lame excuse, there is a sign that says you need them in winter and, as they say, “this means you!”

This means that those folks suffering from storm stupidity were blocking supplies and preventing emergency personnel to focus on local issues.

Okay, so after the tire chains, make sure the car’s fuel tank is full before you even drive up the mountain (and wait until after the storm passes).


First, if you get stuck at least you can run the heater and second, if the power goes out up here you won’t be able to pump fuel.

Oh yeah, when the power goes out you better have cash because everything becomes cash and carry.

Not all businesses were closed. Two banks were letting people in a couple at a time and a few others had supplies to sell but many just shut the doors.

Personally, I thought that was a good call. Why risk your neck when most people are going to be hunkered down for the bulk of the storm.

Okay so next thing, in the car you should have extra blankets, water, food, coats, jackets, gloves, waterproof coverings, and good warm snow boots with traction.

If you don’t know it, snow melts and that makes things wet and slushy. This means you get cold.

In the car should also be a charged cell phone, emergency numbers, ice scraper, and flares or an emergency kit.

You should also not stop in the middle of the road to put on the chains—they should be on before you hit the snow and ice.

Locals tend to get irritated over those, usually on the other side of the curve, who think that kind of behavior is safe.

On the home front, make sure you have wood for the winter and if you don’t have a fireplace/woodstove as a back up source of heat, invest in a portable propane heater or something similar.

Ideally, you might pick up a small generator but if you are like me, a few oil lamps (plus lamp oil and matches or lighter) work well.

Speaking of lighters—don’t use hot water on your locks or car. It makes me cringe every time I see people do that.

Ice scrapers work well on the windshield but heat a key briefly with a lighter to unjam a frozen lock.

In the house, make sure you have ample supplies that do not need refrigeration.

Many of us got irritated when people were calling 911 just because they were out of supplies.

If you have kids your kit should have extra diapers and special needs items. Don’t forget medications either.

In my pantry I have a lot of canned goods. I usually don’t drink milk but I do have canned milk and beverages that don’t need refrigeration on hand.

This brings to mind, if you have an electric stove or one that has an ignition that works off electricity, you better get an emergency stove to have on hand.

Other indispensable items?

Carry a snow shovel in the vehicle with a good strong rope in case you need a tow or to dig out.

Make sure you have a good shovel at the house. Some people like to have kitty litter for traction over ice and more than once I’ve taken out my car floor mat to get traction if one of my tires could not get traction on ice.

Another weird item is an ice chest, my new refrigerator kept things cold for about 30 hours but at 24 I began to throw things in an ice chest that I stuck out in the below freezing temps to be safe.

Also, those freeze shopping bags we all like to use to transport frozen goods back up the mountain work well too.

Mine were filled and put in the snow bank for retrieval after the power came back on—which was within a few hours of my burying them!

Finally, good sun block and sunglasses are a must after the storm.

Okay, that is pretty much my list—do you have any other suggestions? If so, leave them in the comments.

Thanks to Fire Station 49 for taking the snow cat through the roads, yes they were on the lookout for those needing help, but the perk is that the snow tracks made it possible for neighbors to hike down to town for supplies or to check on neighbors.

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8 Responses to “Winter Storm Tips: How to Avoid Storm Stupidity

  • 1
    Charlie Peart
    January 25th, 2010 06:55

    The flat landers never cease to amaze me.

    I was working at Hal’s Chevron in the triangle, and seven 4×4 blazer’s came in for gas. They were up for a fun weekend to frolic in Holcom Valley in the snow. No one goes up there in the snow and that’s what I told them. “Oh, we can make it”, famous last words.

    About five hours later one of them came back to try to get us to take the tow truck up there and pull out the rest of them that had gotten stuck. One got stuck and then the next one to get the first one out and so on. They got real upset when I reiterated that “no one goes up there in the snow”. They got out some how but they didn’t stop back by the station on their way out. Wonder why….

    I also remember back in the winter of 78-79 the snow was so bad that they brought the Marines in with there equipment to clear roads. We lost the skating rink that winter and a number of other buildings from the weight of the snow. We also walked over our buried cars for quite a while and then there was the buried car and the snow blower incident. LOL, car parts everywhere.

  • 2
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    January 25th, 2010 07:16

    Yes, over here in Fawnskin we endure “tourist tv” when the traffic gets re-routed. All locals have entertaining stories. I actually have written some sarcastic (what a surprise!) posts–you might also like Stupid Tourist Tricks:

  • 3
    January 25th, 2010 09:41

    You mentioned that stoves with electric ignition won’t work. During this storm I learned from our neighbor that they will work, if you turn the knob on & use a match. Voila, the gas burner lights up. Was so grateful to know this while our power was out.

    Back to shoveling now. . . Thanks for all your good tips!

  • 4
    January 25th, 2010 15:54

    I guess some people feel too mentally challenged when thinking of preparing in advance for a snow storm. Shop for food and wood three days before a storm. And for goodness sakes, please buy more than one shovel so that you don’t get cursed out by your neighbor when you don’t return theirs’. I don’t mind helping a neighbor but when they don’t return something like a shovel and leave it stuck in a drift of snow, I feel like biting them, hard!

  • 5
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    January 25th, 2010 17:11

    LOL I try and go a week ahead and make sure to have lots of canned foods. Good idea about the shovel. I used to leave on up top in case people got stuck but hate when they disappear.

  • 6
    Carol Weaver
    January 25th, 2010 21:39

    Cheryl is amazing. Always walking from Canyon to the post office. That is why she looks so young and vibrant!
    Again, happy birthday, Mike ! You are 10 times better than a WallMart Greeter! Everyone loves you because you care! Thanks for helping me send the books to one of my teachers today!

  • 7
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    January 26th, 2010 05:40

    LOL Yes, she does get around. I saw you with your books at the Post Office. You missed my singing Happy Birthday to Mike!

  • 8
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    January 26th, 2010 05:49

    Yes, if you use a lighter they will usually work if they are gas stoves with the electronic spark. Not sure about the oven process since I have a vintage stove. Thanks for leaving your note and glad you learned that vital tip!