With Tropical Storm Karen threatening the Gulf Coast, snowstorms in the Plains states and an elevated risk of thunderstorms and tornadoes in the upper Midwest, the weekend weather could get wild. Even a minor storm can cause major damage if it includes high winds, heavy rain, or tree-snapping snow. So it’s a good time to stock up on essentials and, if you have a generator, to make sure it’s ready when you need it.
“There are multiple hazards in multiple regions that warrant the highest level of awareness,” Chris Vaccaro, a National Weather Service spokesman, told the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post. Snow is already falling in South Dakota and blizzard conditions are forecast for the region. Karen is expected to make landfall sometime late Saturday or early Sunday although it’s uncertain if the tropical storm will strengthen into a hurricane.
The best generators
If you’re lucky enough to have a stationary generator that normally switches on when the lights go out, give it a quick check. But a portable generator that’s been idle since last storm season may need more attention to get it started, especially if you didn’t run it dry before putting it away. Gas that’s been left in the tank can degrade during storage and foul the engine parts. If you don’t have either type, consider the results of Consumer Reports’ generator tests, which feature many more models than last season.
Of the 20 portable generators in our tests, nine made our list of top picks including four CR Best Buys that range in price from $600 to $900. Topping the list is the Troy-Bilt XP7000 30477, $900, which had excellent power delivery and was easy to use. But our testers and some of our readers found it to be noisy. The quietest portable machine in our tests was the Honda EU6500iS but at $4,500 maybe you should just invest in hearing protection. For that price you get excellent power quality and ease of use but other generators were better at handling surges in power demand. Kohler topped our tests of small and large stationary generators.
Smart ways to prepare
Prepping your generator isn’t the only thing you should do to get ready for bad weather. Here are some ways to protect your home and your family, from our recent report "How to Get Ready for the Next Big Storm."
- Move or secure outdoor items so they don’t become projectiles.
- Park cars on high ground but not beneath trees.
- Move your valuables to higher floors if you expect flooding.
- Fill all of your vehicles’ tanks, because gas stations could lose power.
- Get gas for your generator, most require 12 to 20 gallons per day.
- Charge your phones and establish an emergency contact.
- Stock up on nonperishable food (crackers, peanut butter.)
- Make sure you have at least one gallon of water per person to last three days.
- Get batteries for flashlights and radios. Find your candles.
- Take out some cash, ATMs may be out of service during a power failure.
- When the storm arrives, close your windows tight.
—Mary H.J. Farrell