Lake Tahoe and Truckee – Are You Ready for an El Nino Winter?   Leave a comment

By Michelle Portesi




All reports are saying that we are heading for a ‘can’t fail’  El Nino winter.


Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. We’ll believe it when we see it! That being said, a wise soul would do well to prepare – just in case.

This time of year we usually do an annual ‘Get Ready for Winter’ post, but if the monster storms really do materialize, you’re going to want to up your game on the preparedness front, especially if you’re a new homeowner in mountain country.

Along with the usual dragging out the snow shovels and mittens, here are some tips to add to your ‘to do’ list.




1 ) Pantry: Stock up on food and have plenty of dry and canned goods on hand. Have some bottled water around too. (Sometimes water pipes freeze up if they’re on an exterior wall.) When the snow piles up to epic proportions, going into town for essentials can be a nerve wracking ordeal…and that’s assuming the power hasn’t gone out at the grocery store. Always have plenty on hand to eat and drink.

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2 ) Power: And speaking about power outages, that seems to happen all too often during large storms. Have plenty of candles, flashlights, batteries and kerosene lamps on hand. Also having an AC/DC radio/cd player around will keep you informed and entertained. A basic, back up, plug in phone stashed away comes in handy when a power outage renders a land line wireless phone useless.

Have a full tank for your gas BBQ. They’re great for cooking a hot meal if your electric stove isn’t functioning.  (Consider changing to a gas range in the future if possible. All electric kitchens are just plain silly in mountain areas.) If you have the resources, consider a small generator.

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3 ) Heat: Replace your furnace filters and check your heating sources. If you have a wood burning stove and haven’t ordered firewood yet, it’s best to get on it pronto! Have the flue cleaned to prevent chimney fires and the spark arrester checked. If you’re on propane, have the tank filled. Make sure your systems are all operating properly.

If you have nothing but electric heat, Lord have mercy on your souls…

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4 )  Car: In a few weeks it will be time to get those studded snow tires on your 4 x 4. If you’ve opted not to have studded tires, check the tread on your mud and snows to be sure you still have plenty left. No 4 x 4? You’ll need to invest in some tire chains.

Check your fluid levels, especially antifreeze and window washing fluid. Have an extra jug of window washing fluid in your car at all times. Wet roads means you’ll be blasting through the stuff amazingly quickly.

Get your ice scrapers and snow brushes in a handy spot so you can access them easily. Keep flashlights, batteries, flares, candles, water, some non perishable food, and blankets/sleeping bags in the car. You never know when you’ll get stuck in your car due to accidents or a temporarily closed road. I always keep some extra jackets, mittens, socks and sweaters in the back of the car as well, in addition to the ever present snow shoes and boots.

Consider investing in a small shovel and a bag of sand or sand based cat litter. It’s great for adding traction should your tires need some help getting out of a snow drift.

And never, ever, go anywhere out of the immediate area with less than a half tank of gas.

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5 ) Roof: Check your roof for any possible leaks and get them repaired. If you’ve had problems with ice dams in the past, contact a contractor to add some heat tape to the worst areas before the snow flies. Clean out all gutters and repair or replace any damaged flashing.

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6 ) Access: Close up any open areas around the house and foundation. Not only do you want to keep the heat in and the snow and cold out, but you’ll want to keep critters from making your crawl space their new winter digs. Wrap any exposed pipes under the house with insulating materials designed for that purpose.

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7 ) Garden: Turn off all irrigation systems and drain all hoses. Invest in insulating cups for your outdoor water spigots. Put all outdoor furniture away…or anything else you don’t want damaged. Large amounts of snow WILL obliterate them. Wrap all of your fragile shrubs and trees with gardeners tape to protect the branches from snapping off. Bring inside any annuals you want to winter over. Mulch your perennials, shrubs and trees to insulate their roots from the cold.

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8 ) Windows and Doors: Check your windows for air leaks and consider new insulating tape around your doors if you can see daylight around the door jamb. If you have single pane windows, you’ll need to add a layer of plastic or invest in some insulating curtains. Consider replacing them with double paned windows.

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9 ) Flooding: If you live along any creeks, river banks or low lying areas, have the sand bags ready. The Truckee has been known to flood if we get more rain than snow (Heaven Forbid!!!) I think I can speak for everyone when I say we’d prefer the white stuff. Pray for Snow!

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10 ) Entry: Have a bag of snow melt handy to keep your stairs ice free and to keep you off your tuchus. Seal off any open side areas around porch entries if possible. It will cut down on the snow that drifts in front of your door. Keep the snow shovel and an outdoor broom nearby and invest in a good doormat to wipe the snow off your boots. You did buy snow boots, right???

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All mega storm angst aside, remember that winter can be all kinds of wonderful as long as you’re prepared for it. Now go dig out those skis, sleds and snowshoes, break out the hot chocolate  – and let’s have some FUN! Here’s to wishing all of us a good winter season!





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