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Old 10-01-2011, 01:02 PM
41 posts, read 60,411 times
Reputation: 21


i need advice on how to survive the winters up here. i've been asking coworkers and neighbors for a few weeks now, but still haven't received any concrete advice, just some 'oh, you'll be fine' comments. being from Florida, i don't think flip flops are going to cut it in the winter. i know this isn't the arctic, but i have never experienced a winter outside of Florida, so driving, clothing, etc. i have no idea how to prepare for.

can anyone offer some pointers on items that are needed for NOVA winters?
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Old 10-01-2011, 01:16 PM
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Not to worry.

If this were Bern, Switzerland however...
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Old 10-01-2011, 02:14 PM
Location: Northern Virginia
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There will be some snow, most of the winters temps will hover around 40 degrees, so yeah, no flip flops Two winters ago we had 3 blizzards, well over 3.5 FEET of snow in my neck of the woods. Last winter we got one snow of about 8 inches but the rest were just dustings. I expect the latter is more par for the course but our two winters here have varied greatly, but certainly cold enough for winter coats, boots and a snow shovel or two.
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Old 10-01-2011, 02:20 PM
Location: Prince William County, VA
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I moved here from Southern CA, 5 years ago.

Are you alone, or do you have a spouse/kids?
If you have kids/spouse, are they old enough/young enough/able bodied enough to help with the shoveling?

You will need a warm coat. I like something like this
Storm Chaser 3-in-1 Jacket: Rain Jackets at L.L.Bean
because you can wear different combos of layers, depending on how cold it is.
This past couple winters, I didn't have a jacket like that though, I only had something like this
Larry Levine Coat, Long Sleeve Notched Collar Wool Walker - Coats - Women's - Macy's
On really cold days, I would wear a turtle neck (I hate scarfs!), then a hoodie zip up sweatshirt, then the coat. I would also wear a hat and gloves if I was going to be spending more than 5-10 minutes or so outside.
I'd say boots are necessary if you will be doing the majority of shoveling in your household, or if you think you will still need to walk on sidewalks/streets shortly after snowfall/before people have a chance to shovel.

You should make sure you have a sturdy shovel before it gets cold enough for snow. I've heard of stores selling out, and during snowmageddon a couple years ago I heard of shovels breaking while people were using them.

Do you park your car in a garage, or outdoors? If you park outdoors, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take the time to knock the snow off the roof of your car before driving. I've seen people driving around with over a foot of snow on their roof. It flies off and hits the windshield of the car behind them-not in soft little flurries, but as a big sheet of snow/ice mix and it is dangerous!

Do you have inground sprinklers? You will need to "blow them out" or have it done for you before it gets too cold. Don't ask me what that means, my husband handles that. But you need to do it! Coming from California, we had never heard of that before and we were lucky that it was just brought up in casual conversation with another neighbor before it got too cold our first year here!

You'll be fine!
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Old 10-01-2011, 03:25 PM
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As you drive to and from work, look closely at the ditches on the side of the road.

If you see a spot you like....reserve it NOW. The good ditch spots go fast...sometimes just moments after the snow begins falling!
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Old 10-01-2011, 03:43 PM
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Anything can happen of course, but most of the bad stuff will come between Dec 15 and Feb 15. Before that, there will be cold snaps, and after that, you can start looking for some Bermuda high to float in here and give us a welcome nice day or two. The past few winters have unfortunately brought higher winds than are comfortable. Lots of layers are the best defense against that and you might want to invest in a WARM hat. When the winds blow, it just drives the cold right through you if you aren't prepared. Looking silly and messing up the hair is a small price to pay to avoid that. If expecting to walk around in downtown DC, be sure the boots are waterproof. Snow and ice will clog up the storm drains, turning many intersections and crosswalks into large lakes during the day. Be careful driving on snow. Start and stop slowly. Go very easy on the brakes and the gas while being gentle with the steering wheel. Slow and steady wins the race. Look around your house now and ask how you would stay warm if you lost electricty for 12 hours or so. Extra blankets and some of those hot-packs can be a good idea. If you have a fireplace, make sure you also have an adequate supply of wood.
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Old 10-01-2011, 04:41 PM
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@HereinVA - thank you! that's the kind of info i'm looking for. i live in a townhouse w/ my german sherpherd - my fiance hasn't moved up here yet, so where i'm at is temporary. we hope to move into a house closer to DC, so i'll keep a note of your sprinkler and shoveling tips. i park outside since this place doesn't have garages. i was told by someone else to get a scraper for the windshield and a small brush, so i'll make sure to clear all the snow before hitting the road. the drive to work is short thankfully, but i'm still nervous about ice on the roads. the links to the jackets are also very helpful. i've never had to purchase anything like that before, so i don't even know what to search for. i'll make sure i have things to layer. in FL i just could throw on any shirt and a jacket if it happened to be chilly. one of my neighbors said i could borrow their shovel if i don't get one, but i may grab one when i'm out just in case. thanks again!

@saganista - i love hats, so i'll make sure to invest in several warm ones. the townhouse i'm staying at does have a fireplace, so i'll make sure to have wood stashed and supplies ready. i've only had to prepare for hurricanes, not winter power failures! thanks for the driving tips, too.
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Old 10-01-2011, 05:47 PM
Location: Northern Virginia
4,489 posts, read 9,025,416 times
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I can relate! I moved here from SoCal and didn't own so much as a winter coat! I got off the plane in January and went straight to Kohls to pick up gloves and hats and jackets!

Some things I've learned....
-I keep a car brush stashed in the car all year long. That way I'm not surprised by the first snow that comes while I'm at work, and can clean off my car to drive home.
-I stock up on cans of the de-icing spray (comes in a yellow can) to help crack the ice on really cold/wet winter mornings. I can be difficult to get through thick ice!
-Buy a snow shovel or two. I learned the hard way that cookie sheets don't work very well as a backup when you don't own a shovel
-Waterproof shoes are a LIFESAVER. There is nothing more miserable than cold/wet feet when you're shoveling snow or walking the dog. I bought a pair of waterproof sneakers from lands end for <$40 that have been wonderful to me the past few winters.
-Don't drive unless you have to. I've been here 6 years now, and still don't feel comfortable driving in the snow--so I don't. Work from home if you can, don't go in until the roads are thoroughly plowed, etc. Short of an emergency, there is no reason to try to drive while it is heavily snowing or the roads are still unplowed. 4 wheel drive does not make you a snow-vehicle.
-Finally....mittens keep your hands much warmer than gloves!!!
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Old 10-01-2011, 06:39 PM
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Excellent advice from everyone who's posted so far, especially the need for waterproof footwear and a really good winter jacket (I have a version of the LL Bean three-in-one jacket referenced above and it's great). And get your winter supplies such as snow shovels, de-icing compound, etc. in early November, not 24 hours before the first storm of the season is due to hit. Some other thoughts:

If you're going to live in a neighborhood with overhead power lines, especially if it's a heavily wooded area, you really should be prepared for the possibility of losing power (although Dominion Virginia Power which serves NoVA is much better than Pepco, which handles DC and suburban Maryland). If you have a fireplace, I'd suggest you get it cleaned and checked before using it -- the expense is worth it for safety's sake.

Unless you really, really need to drive in a snowstorm, stay off the roads until they're plowed. If government and private businesses allow their employees to leave early if they're already at work and a storm is worsening or imminent, leave immediately and don't hang around because everything looks OK at the moment (a lot of people here didn't heed such warnings during this year's major storm and ended up spending 10 hours on the road trying to get home). Be aware that while mass transit might be a better option during a snowstorm, it is not immune to the weather -- buses can have just as much trouble on slippery roads, and Metro will stop running on above-ground segments of track when snow accumulates to more than eight inches.

None of this is meant to install paranoia, just realism -- although when you see the local newscasts go into hysterical overdrive ("Storm patrol! Live team coverage!") when snow is imminent, you can understand where the paranoia comes from. Actually, the most comical aspect is seeing the frenzied crowds jamming supermarkets to stock up on the four essentials they were taught in Snowstorm Survival 101 -- milk, bread, bottled water, and...toilet paper. Don't ask.

Good luck on the transfer to NoVA, and don't worry, you'll do fine your first winter here.
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Old 10-01-2011, 08:02 PM
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@CaliTerp07 - haha, cookie sheets. i will make sure not to put myself in that situation. plus i'm really attached to my bakeware. waterproof shoes are a great idea since i'll be out walking my dog every day, so those are going on the list. thanks for the driving advice. my driving radius is small thankfully, and hopefully work will be understanding if i just don't feel safe enough venturing out one day. all great advice - thank you!

@ICS67 - thanks for reminding me about getting the chimney inspected. i'll schedule that soon since there shouldn't be a waiting list at the moment. and i appreciate the reminder to stay off the roads if possible. since i grew up in hurricane country, i'm used to seeing weather forecasters on tv freaking out and exaggerating the winds, rain, etc. when in reality you could still go to certain stores and be fine - meaning i won't freak out just because someone on tv is, although i will use caution since i've never been through a winter here before. i'm always up for an adventure, just not an 'incident'. thanks again!
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