Visit NOAA to track the storm and the National Weather Service for local forecasts. To weather the storm, Cape Cod & Islands residents, along with our New England neighbors, should take a few simple but necessary precautions, similar to what was recommended by this blogger last October, (see blog on Hurricane Sandy).
Before the storm hits, it is a good idea to stock up on some basic items - clean drinking water, non-perishable food, baby formula and other needed baby items, prescription medication, first aid essentials, gas or charcoal for the outdoor grill, pet food, batteries for flashlights and transistor radios, candles, firewood and matches. Don't forget the ice cream!
High winds and snow covered branches may cause power outages. Avoid being left in the dark! Charge battery powered lanterns, along with cell phones, digital cameras, iPods, iPads and any other electronic devices that are now considered necessities; Verizon customers should locate the old-fashioned rotary dial "Princess" phone that needs no additional power. Comcast subscribers are out of luck. It is also a good idea to freeze extra ice-packs and have coolers on hand to keep refrigerated items safe to eat. To avoid damage to expensive TV's, personal computers, modems, stereo systems, game systems and all other electronic devices, unplug these items prior to the power flickering.
Make sure to have snow shovels and ice-melt/sand ready. Now is a good time to contact any old friends who own plows or snow-blowers - it's not too late to wish them Happy New Year while reminding them who you are and where you live. Those living on the water, may want to board or shutter windows. Take a walk around the yard and bring in anything that could be missed if buried in the in snow for several weeks. Fill the gas tank of at least one family vehicle. For those with oil heat, check the gauge and call now for delivery if needed. Well water users should fill bathtubs, so that toilets can be flushed manually with a bucket of water scooped from the tub. Organize fun things to pass the time and to prevent the kids from whining of boredom if trapped in the house during the storm.
Adults of legal age, 21+, may want to make a beer/wine run while it is still safe to travel. For a local brew, try Cape Cod Beer and Cape Cod Winery. For those who prefer the hard stuff, here is the Blizzard Cocktail recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart. To avoid a potentially unpleasant situation, purchase Valentine's Day gifts and mail cards now, just in case this forecasted storm is a repeat of 1978 and roads and business are shutdown for several days.
As the storm progresses, watch or listen to the news and heed all state and local government warnings. If asked to stay off the roads, please stay at home and leave the roads clear for clean-up crews and emergency vehicles. If asked to evacuate, pack up and go. Make sure to bring valid identification (driver's license, social security card, passport or birth certificate), and cash/checks as ATMs will be inoperable without power; take family pets to ensure their safety.
Report downed wires and power outages by calling NSTAR at 800-592-2000. Don't assume a neighbor has already made the call. Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is a good resource stay up-to-date with state wide blizzard announcements. NSTAR offers electrical safety measures and some helpful hints on getting ready for and weathering the storm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "What You Need to Know When the Power Goes Out Unexpectedly" offers food safety guidelines. This NSTAR map shows where the power is out. Comcast Xfinity customers with a mobile device can check on Comcast outages; those without a smart phone may be out of luck! For more disaster information visit the American Red Cross. A list of Cape Cod emergency shelters and current status is posted by the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee. Check for updates if emergency shelter is needed. Pet owners needing information or assistance locating a pet friendly shelter can contact DART, the Cape Cod Disaster Animal Response Team. In the event that Cape Cod is blanketed with snow, please use extreme caution and good judgment when traveling and avoid dangerous conditions. Lots of events have already been cancelled or postponed this weekend. Don't assume anything is on - call ahead before heading out.
Once the storm is over, the kids have shoveled the driveway and are bored with building snowmen, dust the cobwebs off the family toboggan and cross-country skis, then head for the nearest local golf course! Despite the ads, Hyannis Golf Course will not be open to golfers. If the roads are safe for driving, take a day trip to one of the many New England mountains and ski the fresh snow.
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Be aware, be informed, be prepared, be alert, be safe! Let it SNOW!