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How to handle being snowed in (without losing your mind)

Snowed in? From keeping yourself sane to dealing with no power, here’s how to deal with winter storms when you’re stuck at home.

More: 15 Ways to reduce your heating bill this winter

Don’t panic

So maybe you’re looking out your window and realizing you’re literally going to have to dig yourself out. Or maybe you’ve totally lost power and Internet and are reading this on your cellphone, hoping your battery doesn’t die. Or maybe you’re the rare type of smart person who wants to be prepared in the case of an actual snowstorm. Breathe. You’re going to be all right! People have been living without modern amenities for literally hundreds of thousands of years.

Be sure to stay warm

First off, you can’t let your pipes freeze. “If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags,” suggests the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).”

OK, now you can focus on making yourself comfortable. You’ll want to layer, even indoors, if you lose heat. Your base layer works to lift sweat away from your body to help you avoid that yucky cold and clammy feeling. REI suggests you go with fibres like merino wool and choose your second layer carefully so that it insulates your body — wool and fleece are safe bets.

Pick a warm section of your house, and stay in it. You can use blankets to wall off rooms or segments of the house to avoid losing heat. Tack up blankets over drafty doorways as well to serve as insulation. Or why not have some fun with it and make a grown-up blanket fort to hang out in?

More: Your snow day guide to streaming TV

Take care of your pets

Your pets may be covered in fur, but that doesn’t mean they can fend for themselves in cold temperatures. Take your cat, for example. If that little furball sleeping soundly in your bed evolved to do anything (other than creepily stare at you while you’re sleeping and jump on your keyboard when you’re typing), it was to run around a hot desert in the sun, according to science, so don’t think for a second you can let your cat outdoors in a snowstorm and forget about it.

The Humane Society has some great resources for pet owners who want to protect their pets in plunging temperatures. Namely, keep them indoors during snowstorms, keep all household chemicals away from pets’ reach, and wipe down their paws when they come in to ensure they don’t get damaged from salt on roads.

If you have to make a supply run

So maybe you’ve found yourself stuck at home with nothing but a jar of mustard and a half-drunk bottle of Champagne in the fridge. It happens to the best of us, but you may just want to make a supply run if at all possible to your neighbourhood convenience store or gas station (because you probably don’t want to attempt to drive to a bigger box store if roads are icy). Stock up on non-perishables (Real Simple has a great list), because you never know when your fridge could stop working. Try grabbing up foods like nuts, dried fruit, canned tuna, evaporated milk, bottled water and energy-rich peanut butter and crackers.

And you should always keep emergency essentials on hand, like flashlights, batteries and basic tools for any unforeseen home repairs.

More: Tricks to defrost your windshield in a hurry

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