Britta Merwin, meteorologist for FOX Weather, shares her advice for homeowners during the challenging winter season.
What made you want to become a meteorologist?
I grew up in Colorado where weather is always interesting and often dramatic. I remember we would get an amazing cold front where it would be close to 80 degrees and then the next day it would be snowing in the mountains. We also experienced tremendous thunderstorms, and after the storms passed I loved sending my Barbies down the swollen creek by my house on the latest dreamboat I’d created out of sticks. It was this incredible environment, and my desire to understand why and how sparked my passion for weather. In second grade, my local meteorologist gave a weather presentation at school. That’s when I learned that my passion was an actual job! That day, when I was only eight, I told my mom I was going to be a meteorologist.
Why should consumers invest in their home preparedness for the winter season?
It is critical to be prepared for winter and its impact on your home because it will not only save your family money in the long run, but more importantly, it can also save you heartbreak. You can’t be prepared for everything, but if you pay attention to what is going around you it is easy to take steps ahead of time to lessen the blow Mother Nature can punch.
What are the biggest challenges that homeowners face when it comes to weather-related issues during the winter?
The biggest challenge for homeowners is having a way to safely and affordably heat their home. Let’s face it: keeping your home warm is expensive. Every year we lose precious people to home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, all because someone was trying to stay warm. We need to ensure people have an affordable, safe, and warm place during the winter. It is never safe to heat your home using your oven or using alternate fuels in a fireplace.
Secondly, homeowners need to understand where their home is built. What extremes have happened in the past? What worked, and what failed? Knowing that your community has been hit by crippling freezes in the past can make you armed with knowledge on how to prepare your plumbing for the winter months. Knowledge is a powerful tool.
How should homeowners prepare for the snow and ice?
Educating yourself on what your home usually encounters during winter is the first step. The second step is have a plan on how to get through the worst case scenario, and then you will likely be prepared for the most common brushes with winter weather woes.
Knowing if your home is more at threat from snow or from ice is important. Do you have the tricky combination of both? Your roof is an important first step. Without a roof, you do not have a safe home. Look at the trees around your home. Could a tree fall down onto your house? Can your roof handle the load of a heavy wet snow? Do you have a flat roof where you will likely have to find a safe way to remove snow during the winter? All of these are important questions to answer.
Ice can sometimes be scarier than snow. It is important to prevent ice buildup on your driveway and walkways.
What are the most common weather issues you anticipate for wintertime 2023?
We are heading into another La Niña winter, which is a weather pattern dictated by the abnormally cooler water in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This pattern usually results in a wet and cold winter in the Pacific Northwest, Northern Plains, and Great Lakes. I expect in these areas we will experience plenty of snow, with the biggest issue being very cold temperatures.
On the flip side, we typically see dry conditions in the Southwest, Southern Plains, and the Gulf Coast during a La Niña winter. With drought already building in these locations, I am very concerned that the dry winter conditions could be more hazardous than the snow up north, because the dry winter will only lead to bigger concerns into the spring and summer of 2023.