Cold has arrived, tips to be winterized

The legendary snow squalls of December 2008 created some bitter conditions in the days following the storm. Diane Sieker photo

Cold weather has arrived in Anza and the surrounding communities. It seemed that winter was delayed, but it has arrived with a vengeance in the last couple of weeks. Freezing temperatures are common at this time of year, but the recent extraordinarily cold temperatures have taken some homeowners by surprise.

Frozen and broken water pipes, dead car batteries, shivering livestock, low supplies of warming fuel and iced windshields plagued many in the valley.

There are many things that can be done to prepare and winterize a home, car and animals, and not get taken by surprise when the thermometer’s mercury dips well below 32 degrees.

Protect water pipes, well parts and spigots. Building a small pump house to contain temperature sensitive pipes and fittings is a great place to start. Some people even use heat lamps inside the pump house, to guarantee ice-free water flow. To avoid an embarrassing lack of water first thing in the morning, drip a faucet or two inside the home to keep water moving and unlikely to freeze solid. Cover outside spigots with plastic 5-gallon buckets or wrap with foam or cloth and remove and drain hoses. For exposed pipes entering the home, heating tape can be purchased that will eliminate a deep freeze. Other than that, simple foam pipe wrap is an inexpensive route to take.

“We have wrapped all our outside pipes in all weather tape and pipe foam,” Aguanga resident Nancy Myers said. “We also leave one faucet on a slow run, not just a drip.”

Know how to shut off the pump at the breaker box in case of a burst pipe.

For those with cold sensitive plants, cover them up or bring them into shelter if possible. Freezes are possible well into May and the local lore dictates that when planting a garden, put the seedlings out after Mother’s Day.

Pets and livestock present unique winterizing challenges. Arrangements can be as simple as making sure the family pooch is in at night or as complicated as building and maintaining shelter systems for outdoor-only animals.

For most livestock, it is protection from wind and precipitation that are paramount. Animals naturally grow winter coats that insulate them from biting cold in most cases. An animal’s fur or hair stands up when it is cold, a process called piloerection. This natural reaction results in a layer of warm air trapped in close to the skin. Blanketing large animals such as horses usually is only necessary in inclement weather, to protect them from the rain or snow but not especially from the cold. For example, most horses are not uncomfortable in temps as low as 10 or 15 degrees, but if they get wet, they can be miserable. If the livestock is shivering, they are cold.

Shelter is important. Wintertime newborns need special accommodations, and owners need to be informed and clever.

“We had a litter of pigs born yesterday,” Cadi Thayer said. “I bought the mama bred, but I’m not of fan of winter births; they are too hard. We built a creeper box for the piggies. They get out through a short cut in mom’s pen and go inside their own box fitted with deep straw and a heat lamp safely secured a safe distance at the top of the box. It’s all enclosed except for the entrance. Mom can’t lay on them or steal their heat source that way.”

Poultry, small livestock and young animals do well for the most part with adequate shelter, but sometimes when it really freezes hard, heat lamps can give just enough heat to take the edge off and make them more comfortable. Make sure the lamp cannot be reached by the curious animals and that all electrical cords are safely tucked out of reach as well.

Animals that are eating are generally warm. They also need more food this time of year to help with the energy demands of keeping warm. Weak, old or very young animals will need special attention in the food department and offered more calories than more vigorous critters.

Make sure to break the ice in water containers, to ensure that the animals drink enough to remain as healthy as possible. Keep in mind that animals are not people, and most can tolerate cold much better than we can and have a higher tolerance for low temperatures.

Winterizing vehicles is a must. Check antifreeze, brakes, heater and defroster, tires and windshield wipers to make sure they all perform as needed. It is a good idea to keep the gas tank at least half full of fuel in case of an emergency. Emergency kits and portable cellphone chargers, ice scrapers, blankets and jumper cables can be stashed in the trunk. Get snow chains and learn how to use them.

Electric service can be interrupted in extreme cold weather. Be prepared with an emergency kit, extra blankets, coats and other winter gear. For those with a fireplace, make sure to have a good supply of dry firewood to carry over in case of an emergency. Have the chimney inspected and cleaned every autumn.

People who must have electricity to operate medical equipment should have an alternate plan in place in case power is out for an extended period of time.

“If you or someone in your household is on life support, please be sure and let us know,” according to the Anza Electric Cooperative website. “Identification tags are also placed on meters to alert crews of the existence of a life-support system. With the member’s permission, copies of AEC’s life-support list are forwarded to the local fire stations so they also may be aware of a member’s special needs. Because power outages can’t always be controlled and the duration of the outage may be extensive, it’s important to maintain a sufficient backup supply of oxygen or other medical equipment you may need during this time.”

Hopefully the next bout of cold air will find everyone prepared and not inconvenienced. A little anticipation and forethought can help make the cold snaps much less stressful.

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