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3 Simple Things to Prepare Now Before Winter Truly Sets In

by on November 19, 2019 5:00 AM

Well that was a brutal little stretch of weather the last two weeks here in Happy Valley wasn’t it?  On Election Day we were enjoying a mild fall with highs in the 50s, then the bottom dropped out and by Saturday morning we’re in the frigid teens.

By Monday afternoon we were back in the mid-50s and we all – OK, some of us – broke out our shorts and t-shirts for what might be the last time this year. I even passed a few shirtless joggers on the bike path by the high school, which is taking shorts and t-shirts one step further than even I will go. Then Wednesday morning the mercury dipped to a low of 18 degrees with single-digit wind chills and ever since then the outside temperature has spent a good deal of time below freezing. The leftover tailgating ice I tossed out by the side of the house on Saturday night is still there – with little chance of melting anytime soon.

Heck, I even watched part of an SEC football game on Saturday where players were wearing hand-warmer belts and the sideline announcer was in a fur-lined parka. In Alabama. 

All of which means the dead of winter will be here before you know it. 

But the dead of winter doesn’t have to be as negative as it sounds. It means we get several months free from mowing our lawns and trimming shrubbery. It also means our garages now serve as an extra refrigerator so our bulk storage drinks are always cold. And if we have an electricity outage there are no worries about our cold food spoiling.

The imminent arrival of our long, cold and light-challenged winter, however, means we should properly plan to make the best of it. There are three things you should seriously consider preparing in advance before the deep freeze sets in. They are: snow shovels, mailboxes, and entertainment.

First, snow shovels. This seemingly minor implement occupying a small space in your garage or shed holds a great deal of significance in how your winter will play out. Will you curse, ache and recuperate every time a few inches of snow cover your driveway and sidewalk? Or will you have the tool you need to make this exercise go easily and with little or no physical discomfort?

If you wait for the first significant snowfall to head to the store to buy a new one you will have waited too long. You will gaze upon the selection of snow shovels and notice there is a gap in the lineup of options. That gap is the good snow shovel you should have bought four weeks before. So go now, while that good snow shovel is still there. And while you are there, buy some ice melt too so you are ready for those moments of icy rain and slippery sidewalks.

Or alternatively, be that one fantastic neighbor who spends the big bucks and gets a snow blower. So on those days with 12 inches of white stuff blanketing everything in sight you can create loads of positive karma for yourself by strolling up and down the entire block clearing everyone’s sidewalk. 

Secondly, mailboxes. Many of us live in the townships and sections of the borough where our mail is delivered to a mailbox situated next to the street in front of our home. This is part of the rural charm of living in Happy Valley.

Unfortunately, plows need to clear that street once the snow starts to fall. (Note: move your car from the street once 2 inches of snow accumulates or take responsibility and shovel the street mess you created when you do finally move it.) And sometimes those plows might get a little close to the edge of that street and, bam, there goes your mailbox! In which case you might be tempted to contact your local government to get your mailbox replaced because, after all, their snowplow wiped it out. Except, be aware that your local government may have guidelines regarding proper placement of your mailbox to ensure just such a travesty does not occur, and if your mailbox was not in compliance, well, enjoy installing a new one yourself in the depths of winter. 

Ferguson Township has the most specific local guidelines for mailbox placement on their website here. Having the front of the mailbox 1 foot away from the roadway edge with at least 3 feet of clear zone between the roadway and the bottom of the mailbox will keep your box safe from the plow. But as I walk through the neighborhoods I see many boxes too close or too low to the street. If you want to relocate your mailbox to ensure it doesn’t suffer its fate at the hands of a plow, now is the time to do it before the topsoil freezes.

And the third thing you should prepare in advance before winter arrives is your entertainment. By that I mean, what will you binge-watch when the opportunity arises to spend hours in front of your big screen with nothing to do and nowhere to go because travel is dangerous or impossible? 

As more and more television and movie series are available across streaming and on-demand platforms, binge-watching has become a “thing.” Watching multiple episodes of a television program or movie franchise in rapid succession is now part of our shared human entertainment experience. And do you want to be left out? I think not, in which case you need to plan ahead now to know, when those golden winter opportunities arise, what will you watch? 

Will you go with movies? “The Pirates of the Caribbean” catalog? The entire “Avengers” series chronologically? Or “Harry Potter”? Or will you choose a classic television show? “The Sopranos”? “Friends”? “Gilmore Girls”? Or go with something more recent that’s never been on a network or cable channel:  “Stranger Things,” “The Kominsky Method,” or “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”? 

Whatever it will be you need to start planning now so when the time comes, your decision is easy. Ask your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers what they have binge-watched and enjoyed, and use your knowledge of their tastes to guide you. Because the sad fact is, as the comedian Steven Wright notes, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Meaning, there’s not enough time to watch it all, so choose wisely.

There you have it – your three proverbial marching orders before the dead of winter sets in. I wish you much success!


John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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