For the second time in as many weeks, the nation’s heartland is facing blizzard conditions. From the Texas panhandle to the Great Lakes, today’s blizzard is bringing record snowfall, ice, high winds and destruction all along its path. Understanding the power of a blizzard can help you minimize it effects.

Blizzards like hurricanes should not be taken lightly as they are the most severe of winter storms often paralyzing the people and businesses in their path for several days to a week. Like hurricanes, blizzards impact us in a variety of ways.

How a Blizzard Impacts Every Part of Your Life

Some aspects of a blizzard may just seem like a nuisance but they can be very costly as high winds, freezing temperatures, heavy snow and ice take their toll on facilities, utilities, state and local governments municipalities.

  • Family/Personal: Some of the following items may just be a nuisance but others can threaten life and property:
    • Internet, cable and telephone: Downed power lines and utility poles may cause these services to be out. Having a charges cellular phone is very important.
    • Schools and Universities: This means your children are home and your pets are going crazy being inside. May also resulted in an extended school year.
    • Churches: Social activities and services at churches are likely to be cancelled.
    • Parks: Exercise habits may be stopped.
    • Heating: Heating bills go up assuming they are still functioning, fire risks increase from heaters and fireplaces.
    • Freezing temperatures can cause frozen pipes, ice buildup, vehicles to not start and hypothermia. Metals and plastics exposed to freezing temperatures may become brittle and break.
    • Snow buildup: Heavy snow on roofs can cause roof collapse or trap people inside their home. Closed roads may prevent emergency services.
    • Ice: Ice makes roadways extremely dangerous but also can cause leaks into homes, ice dams, pot holes, and extremely slippery walkways.
    • Food: Closed highways, stalled trucks, closed airports all prevent the normal supply of food, medicines, fuels and other goods from arriving. Grocery stores may be inaccessible.
  • Facilities and Businesses: There is a lot of crossover between family and business problems with a blizzard. However, it is the economic impact of storms on facilities management and businesses that can be the most costly. For example:
    • Utilities are normally the hardest hit. Electricity is usually the first to stop as ice build-up, fallen trees and high winds disrupt the flow of power. The sudden loss power can harm industrial assets that are not prepared for a hard shutdown.
      Continued power loss affects production, interrupts electronic monitoring and can result in damage to assets that must be kept within a specified temperature range.
    • Transportation: Interstate commerce is effectively halted during a blizzard. Photos of stranded trucks adorn every highway. Airports close affecting not only the closed airport but also impacting flights at every connecting airport venue. Postal and package carriers come to a standstill. All of this has a substantial financial impact.
    • Fuel Supplies: Sustained freezing temperatures increase demand of natural gas, propane and fuels for emergency generators. sub-zero weather can crack valves, cause leaks and/or pipes to burst.
    • Sports arenas: These facilities will sit unused during a blizzard or act as shelters. Revenues generated from missed events may be lost.
  • Governments: Local and State governments are the most affected. For example:
    • Municipal snow removal services are limited during the blizzard. Most roadways will take considerable time to clear once conditions allow snow plows to continue operating.
    • Social services may cease for a period of time.
    • Police and fire departments are not only short staffed but also overwhelmed by need.
    • Government offices close and/or services limited.

20 Blizzard Busting Tips

No one can determine exactly how a blizzard will affect you ahead of time as there are simply too many variables. You can however minimize damage to your facility, business and home with a little preparation, preventive maintenance and constant vigilance in the form of inspections.

Inspections checklist that facility managers, asset managers and individuals can do.

  1. Inspect generators before, during and after the storm. Checks for leaks, fuel levels, ventilation.
  2. Gather and inspect snow removal equipment. From shovels to snow blowers to snow plows, make sure they are in operating condition.
  3. Inspect facilities and homes for leaks before during and after storm.
  4. Clear roof when possible of heavy snow build up. The weight of the snow can cause roof collapse and melting snow can enter into premises or turn to ice.
  5. Clean gutters and knock down icicles.
  6. have an ample supply of candles, batteries, flashlights and water proof matches
  7. If using space heaters, never connect them through an extension cord. Periodically check the heat of cord. Remove all flammable material from immediate vicinity.
  8. Keep a supply of dry clothes and blankets handy. If the power goes out you will need them.
  9. Have a charged cell phone only to be used for emergencies.
  10. Inspect boilers for operating condition, perform all necessary preventive maintenance. If power goes out make sure gas valve is turned off.
  11. Stay inside, do not ask non-essential employees to go to work.
  12. Remove water from floors at facility entrances, change mats frequently.
  13. Inspect smoke and CO2 detectors.
  14. Ensure there is adequate ventilation for all fireplaces and stoves. Check chimney condition.
  15. Store food in dry and secure location. The freezing temperatures will drive insects and rodents inside.
  16. Inspect all valves, fitting and pipes exposed to the elements. Do this before, during and after the blizzard. Freezing and thawing can cause leaks, asset failures and jump start corrosion.
  17. If using rock salt to melt ice, make sure your assets are winterized.
  18. Inspect roadways and parking areas for potholes.
  19. Have a first aid kit available as well as needed medicines.
  20. Ensure all portable fuels are stored outside, never store propane or gas inside a home or business.

Remember that the impact of a blizzard does not stop once the snow has stopped. It is critical that a full inspection of all assets (home or business) is completed after the blizzard. If possible, compare the results to the inspections report done using your CMMS before the storm.

We hope that everyone remains safe and warm.

Tell us how you have prepared for the blizzard and feel free to add inspection items that I may have missed.