Article Lead Image

Douglas Palmer/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The 17 hacks you need to prepare for Winter Storm Jonas

From booze delivery to DIY snow melt, here's how to be prepared.


Amrita Khalid


Posted on Jan 21, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 8:17 am CDT

It’s likely that the East Coast will get hit this weekend with its first major snowstorm of 2016, impacting an estimated 50 million people from as far South as the Ohio Valley and as far north as Rhode Island. 

Winter Storm Jonas will unleash its damage beginning on Friday night and lasting through Sunday. New York City and southeastern Massachusetts should expect to see at least a foot of tsnow according to forecasts from Thursday morning. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will see anywhere from 12 to 18 inches. Meanwhile, the mid-Atlantic area, including Baltimore and Washington, D.C., could get hit with a “paralyzing” and “historic” storm that could total more than 20 inches of snow, though Accuweather is still predicting anywhere between 12-18 inches.  

There will likely there will be power outages because most weather models expect strong winds to produce blizzard conditions. 

While these staggering snowfall estimates are not set in stone, the odds are officially high enough that it’s better to be safe than sorry. From preparing for the blizzard to waiting out the storm to adjusting to life after the snowpocalypse, here are the best blizzard tips and hacks.

1) If you’re supposed to be flying, check to see if you qualify for a winter weather waiver 

If you’re scheduled to fly in or out of the snowstorm’s danger zone this weekend, you’re in luck. No flights have been cancelled yet, but if you’d rather not risk flying this weekend, you won’t have to pay a penalty. Airlines will usually waive flight change fees in advance of a major storm. Several airlines announced Wednesday that they will allow passengers scheduled to fly this weekend to change their flight free of charge, including American Airlines, Delta, United, Frontier, and Jet Blue. Some airlines, including Jet Blue and Delta, are even offering full refunds. 

2) If you’re scheduled to take a train, follow Amtrak on Twitter

Unlike their in-the-air counterparts, train travel won’t necessarily come to a halt, but it could slow it down. While Amtrak hasn’t cancelled any routes, be sure to keep an eye on their service alerts page or follow Amtrak Northeast or Amtrak Virginia on Twitter. 

3) Download the Flight Stats app for the latest updates on flight delays and cancellations

Air travel is expected to be at a standstill for most of the Northeast, and airlines are expecting Winter Storm Jonas flight delays as far west as Little Rock and Nashville. For the most up-to-minute updates of individual flights and airports, download the Flight Stats app. The app has flight data from both airlines and airports, as well as other government sources and reservation systems.  

Flight Stats is available for iOS and Android

4) Charge all of your devices (even the old ones) before you expect the storm to hit

Gather up all your devices—from your laptops to your tablets to your smart phones to your old Nokia flip phones—the night before the storm and charge them up. Adjust your laptop and smartphone’s battery to its lowest power setting while you use them them during the blizzard. In the event of a power outage, you want to have as much juice as possible. 

In an absolute worst-case scenario (such as if you spend the entire storm playing Words with Friends on your smartphone until it dies), an old flip phone can come in handy for an emergency call. 

5) Write down emergency phone numbers

Given the event of a power outage, it’s highly unlikely you have all important numbers needed memorized. Write down a list of important numbers you might need in anticipation of the blizzard. 

Some suggestions include:

  • Your parents and other family members
  • Friends that live within walking distance of your home
  • Local police and fire departments
  • Your city’s snow removal agency
  • Your physician

6) Learn how to tether your smartphone in case of a power outage

We have a handy guide on how to tether your smartphone in case a power outage during the storm leaves you without a Wi-Fi signal. Use this sparingly, though. Tethering your smartphone is a notorious battery-drainer. 

7) Download NOAA Snow Forecast for details on every last second of the storm

A weather app tailored just for snowstorms may sound excessive to some, but if you’re wondering whether to venture out in the storm for errands now, or six hours from now, or how much snowfall is in the surrounding suburbs, you’ll appreciate the NOAA Snow Forecast app. The app uses geolocation to target your snow forecast to your exact location or neighborhood rather than the nearest city, which can be useful for those in the suburbs.

You can find some other useful weather apps in our Winter Storm Juno app roundup

NOAA Snow Forecast is available for iOS and Android

8) Install a good weather app but also keep an eye on your local weather news

There’s a reason why your local news station employs meteorologists instead of just shelling out $1.99 for the latest flashy weather app in the App store. Your weather app won’t be able to tell you if it’s OK to go outside and have a snowball fight on Saturday, or drive to the liquor store. Your weather app lacks a human brain and the regional knowledge of your local weather newsperson.

As Dennis Mersereau explains in the Vane, even though your weather app and your local news station are looking at the same model data from the National Weather Service, there are plenty of nuances in those numbers that are better interpreted by a meteorologist. Not explaining these nuances can often lead to “a wildly inaccurate weather forecast.”

If you don’t have a television, try following your local weather person on Twitter or download your local weather news app. 

9) Download a couple of movies and podcasts in case of a power outage

(Sorry, this embed was not found.)

In case you’re without power for several hours, have a few episodes of Mozart in the Jungle or This American Life downloaded and ready to go. This way you won’t go crazy with boredom while you wait for the power to come back on. 

10) Make DIY snowmelt with household ingredients

Don’t waste money on a store-bought solution to melt ice off your driveway. Just mix lukewarm water, dishwashing detergent, and rubbing alcohol. The folks at WYFF News 4 explain how: 

11) Pull together an emergency kit that will keep you warm

If you’ve ever had to prepare for a tornado or hurricane, you probably have a standard first aid kit. But take into account that losing power during a blizzard could also mean losing heat. While a battery-operated flashlight and bandaids will always come in handy, the Center for Disease Control recommends additional items to prepare for a blizzard

These include: 

  • Extra blankets
  • Portable space heater or kerosene heater
  • Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water

12) Cover your car’s windshield with an old towel or blanket before the storm

After a weekend blizzard, no one wants to mess with a snow scraper the first thing on Monday morning. Try this timesaving tip that Charlotte resident Emily Cox gave to the Charlotte Observer:

“Get an old towel, blanket or large piece of cardboard and put it on your windshield before the snow and ice hit. My father-in-law uses old moving blankets and it makes for a lot less time in the morning getting ready to go out.”

13) Use a leaf blower as a portable snow blower on your car and stoop

As pointed out on a Reddit thread, using a leaf blower to clear snow from your car is a tried-and-true snow hack. Keep in mind that this trick may only work for the powdery, dry white stuff. Ice and wet snow may require different methods. 

14) Keep active to keep yourself from losing your mind

Especially during a blizzard, it can be tempting to follow your instincts and hibernate. Don’t do that. Being sedentary indoors and being deprived of sunlight can be the perfect storm for depression and anxiety. If you’re used to running outdoors, try a fitness app like Daily Burn with videos and instructions on hundreds of different workouts you can do at home.

Or try any of these free fitness videos that don’t require weights or any special equipment: 

15) Bake cookies to keep your home or apartment warm

Make sure you have eggs. Given the attention to bottled water, bread, and milk, eggs are a vastly underestimated part of blizzard meal prep. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more multipurpose ingredient than the egg. You can eat eggs for every meal of the day, and they provide an important source of protein. 

You could use the eggs for baking cookies. You could bake eggs in muffin tins on Thursday night so you don’t worry about breakfast during the blizzard. You might decide to whip up a pisco sour to lift up your spirits after a power outage. Leave the PB&J to the disaster preparedness amateurs. If you have eggs, parmesan, pasta, and bacon, you can easily make spaghetti carbonara. For more ideas on what to do with eggs, check out our roundup of the best YouTube egg-cooking videos

The bottom line is that it will be a near travesty if you run out of eggs during this storm. Do not run out of eggs. Buy more than you need.

The storm is coming. Be prepared and stay safe.

Photo via Douglas Palmer/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Share this article
*First Published: Jan 21, 2016, 1:54 pm CST