Snow loads are going to be a problem no matter whether you are home or in camp if it snows. We recently got more than a foot of snow at home, which adds up to about 15 lbs per square foot. That means close to 1400 lbs of snow on the top of an 8 x 11 1/2 camper! By the time I cleared off the roof of my slide-in camper, the damage was already done. The metal roofing had caved in enough between the rafters to separate the metal sheets and damage some of the plywood sheeting underneath. Its going to be a major repair project next spring. Whether you're in camp or at home when the snow hits, if your RV is outside, you'll want to monitor how much snow is accumulating and sweep it off before it damages your vehicle. Snow can quickly get heavy enough to collapse tents if you're tent camping. Even though some snow can provide insulation against the cold, you'll be much worse off if it collapses your tent. If your RV is stored in a shed or carport at home, you will want to monitor the snow accumulation on the roof of the structure and clear it off before it gets heavy enough to cave in the roof or collapse the structure. I've heard reports of snow accumulation in mountain areas that were enough to pop tires on stationery travel trailers. Imagine the stress that put on the infrastructure too! Popped tires are easy to replace. Cracked or broken supports inside walls, roofs, and floors will be an expensive, major repair job.
Snow shoveling is probably something you'll do more of at home than in camp, but you may need to shovel walkways between your RV and any trailer or to the fire pit, picnic table, or the restrooms or to adjacent camp sites. Take care when shoveling snow. Wet snow can be very heavy, about 12-15 lbs per shovelful. At a rate of 12 shovelfuls per minute you'll move about 2,000 lbs (1 ton) of snow in 10 minutes! That's probably a lot more than your normal upper body workout at the gym and tons more work than lifting the TV remote control -- as well as a lot of unusual movement. Exercise caution, especially if yours is normally a rather sedentary lifestyle. If you're tossing snow and not just pushing it, avoid twisting, just toss it straight ahead. Twisting puts extra strain on your whole body, especially your back, shoulders, and arms. The exertion is more than most people are used to. About 1200 Americans die from heart attacks while shoveling snow every year. Emergency room visits for heart attacks jump about 22% for about a week after a big storm. If you must shovel snow, be sure to do it right! You will find it easier to keep up with it if you shovel right after each storm, even if another one is on the way. Shoveling 2" twice is a lot easier than shoveling 4" all at once. Sometimes you can use a snow shovel like a human-powered snowplow and push the snow out of the way without having to lift and toss it. For light, fluffy snow or snow that is not too deep, you can probably just push the end of the shovel handle with your hand(s). For heavier work, rest the shovel handle against your thighs or abdomen (depending on how tall you are and how long the shovel handle is) and push with your legs. Check out these Fifteen Cardinal Rules for Snow Shoveling. You'll also find lots of videos with snow shoveling tips on You Tube. Lifting and throwing snow puts a strain on all sorts of muscles in your arms, legs, neck, and back and sometime contributes to heart attacks among people who aren't in shape for that much strenuous activity. For one thing, in cold weather, your body constricts blood vessels to conserve core heat, so it pushes blood pressure up and reduces the oxygen supply to the heart. Those especially at risk are smokers and people who have had a previous heart attack, other heart disease, high blood pressure, or a sedentary life style. If you're a perennial couch potato, don't jump into shoveling tons of snow without some preparation. Even if you are healthy and fit, do some warmups and stretches before tackling the snow shovel. Shoveling snow can be more strenuous than exercising full throttle on a treadmill. Even pushing a heavy motorized snow blower can put enough load on your heart to be dangerous, especially if you're out of shape. When shoveling, drink plenty of water and take plenty of breaks. Like it or not, the snow probably isn't going anywhere while you stop for a hot cup of cocoa. At least one study showed the rate of heart attacks to be 50% higher in winter than in summer and they were more likely to be fatal.
Heat and light are essential to our comfort, convenience, health, and safety. Winter storms, or unlucky drivers in winter storms, often knock down power lines, leaving us without power at home or in a campground with hookups. If you've maintained your RV properly, you should be able to survive several days without outside power. With a propane furnace and an onboard generator you should be able to be comfortable for many days. Make sure the generator exhaust doesn't get blocked with snow or being redirected up into your RV. At home you may have to rely on heating your house with a wood burning fireplace or a wood stove to keep your pipes from freezing. If you don't already have a working fireplace or wood stove and you live in an area prone to winter storms, it might be worth investing in one. Such upgrades are not cheap, but then, neither is repairing the damage and replacing broken pipes when the pipes freeze to say nothing of the comfort of having a heated home to stay in! A fireplace is a nice addition to any home, but it can be a very expensive and difficult job adding one to an existing structure. Wood burning stoves are easier to install and are actually much more efficient than fireplaces. In fact, one report I read, said using your fireplace during cold weather can actually increase your heating bills significantly because of heat lost up the chimney. Your camping lanterns, flashlights, and candles can serve you well at home, in your RV or your tent during a storm-induced power outage. Just keeping the cabin of your RV above freezing may not be enough to protect the on board plumbing systems. Sewer dump valves will almost certainly be exposed to extreme temperatures outside unless they are inside a heated cabinet and even some fresh water lines may be at risk. It is too late to prepare your RV for winter camping if you're already in camp when winter hits. You need to know how and take steps to protect exposed fixtures ahead of time. At least carry a gallon or so of Marine/RV antifreeze to protect your dump valves if you get an unexpected cold snap. To protect pipes from freezing you only need to keep them above 32°F. Let's say you keep your home or RV at 40°F. That will protect your pipes, but YOU aren't going to be very comfortable since human beings prefer a temperature around 72°F. Dress in layers to preserve your own body heat. Wear a hat, even indoors, to reduce heat loss through your head. Wear extra socks and change your socks often. People often forget that feet sweat, and as they do, damp socks will make sure you feel cold all over. Do everything you can to stop drafts and to provide extra insulation over windows. Multiple layers are best for windows, just like they are for you. You might be surprised how much heat the human body generates. Some estimates put it about the same as a 100 watt incandescent bulb. When our family came to visit at Christmas in Utah one year we had about 20 people in the living room, and even without the heat on and no fire in the fireplace and with sub-freezing temperatures outside, it got so warm we had to open some windows.
Concentrate on limiting your activities to the smallest space you can. It will be easier to keep a small room warm for your comfort than trying to heat a whole house. If you have room you might even set up a dome tent indoors to give you an even smaller space to heat to keep you warm at night. Block any unnecessary places heat can escape. Put rolled towels against the bottom of doors, hang blankets over windows, and tape up any obvious gaps in weather stripping.
Cooking is likely going to require some adjustments too. As utilities are affected by winter storms, you may have to fall back to your RV, BBQ, camp stove, or campfire at home to get by until your residential appliances are back on line. During a recent blackout that struck our area about dinner time, we simply shifted to cooking on the BBQ outside in the snow. Yes, it was cold and we had to cook by flashlight, but at least we had dinner on time. In a long-term situation, we would probably move into our motorhome and do most of the cooking there. Blackouts usually have less of an impact if you're in an RV since you can fall back on your on board systems like you would boondocking. Just remember to conserve resources. You never know how long you'll be without power. NEVER try using your BBQ or even small hibachi indoors, not even in your garage. Between the fumes and the oxygen depletion, it is a sure recipe for disaster, not to mention the fire hazard. Fire will be far better at getting the limited oxygen out of the air than your lungs will be! Also be cautious using an auxiliary generator. Keep them -- or at least their exhaust -- outside, at least 25 feet from doors and windows or you will surely suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. There were a lot of generator related problems (illness and even deaths) during hurricane Sandy, mostly because of the ignorance of the owners about proper ventilation.
Road hazards during a winter storm are usually pretty well known and obvious: deep snow, slick roads, black ice, and poor visibility. But also consider that snowplows and even ordinary traffic may present additional problems. Snow plows may inadvertently block your driveway as they clear the road. If you are parked near a road that is being plowed or cleared with a snow-blower, snow may be tossed onto your vehicle. If you have to abandon a vehicle by the side of the road, it may "disappear" into the snow and be inadvertently struck by a snowplow or other passing vehicle. Other drivers attempting unwisely to continue to travel may lose control and run into your vehicle. Be especially aware of heightened road hazards if you are moving about on foot! Not only might you be hit by passing traffic, you may encounter unexpected dangers beneath the snow as you walk (or struggle) through the snow. Simple things like fire plugs and curbs can trip you up and you could step into hole or ditch that has been filled with snow. We were rather dismayed when a Fed Ex deliveryman showed up at our door with snow clinging to his clothes up to his waist. He had tried to walk from his truck on the street to our front door, not realizing there was a deep irrigation ditch hidden beneath the snow drift along the road. It looked flat and safe -- until he stepped into the ditch and went in up to his waist! We have since installed a bridge and with reflective markers to designate a route of safe passage. Be particularly cautious if you are in an unfamiliar area where you may not be aware of the potential hazards lurking beneath that peaceful, white blanket of snow. If snow catches you after you arrive in camp, be aware that getting out may be impaired by slippery or muddy conditions resulting from the storm.
Conserving resources during a winter storm is a wise and essential thing to do whether you're at home or camping. You can never tell how long you may have to stick it out before utilities are restored or things warm up and you can travel again. Do whatever you can to reduce heat loss through windows and to seal up drafts around doors and windows and other fixtures that penetrate the exterior of your structure. Use consumable commodities such as fuel, battery power, water and food only as needed. If you experience a long term power outage, use the food in your fridge first, then the freezer, and then the canned goods from the pantry. That way you can make use of perishable foods before they spoil.
♫Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow!♫