Across the South, people joke about milk and bread shortages at the grocery store ahead of any mention of snow. Prepping for a winter storm may not be as easy for low-income families.

Food and water

In rural areas, where the closest store may be a dollar store, the store shelves can empty out quickly with a forecast of winter weather. Low-income families may not have the money to purchase extra supplies in bulk right before a storm. The American Red Cross recommends having a two-week supply of non-perishable, easy to prepare items in the home. Besides the cost, low-income families may not have space to keep that much food tucked away. Another headache of the winter storm was frozen and broken water pipes. The American Red Cross recommends one gallon of water, per person, per day, within the home, plus keeping used bath or shower water for flushing commode. Low-income families may not have the space to keep that much water and keep it from freezing.


Low-income individuals may live in older homes that aren’t insulated well, or they may live in all-electric, multi-unit apartments.When the power goes out, they may not have a wood-burning or gas stove to turn to for heat and cooking. Having a gas-powered generator in these situations may not be financially or logistically possible. Generators start around $300. Plus there’s the added upkeep of gallons of gas, and stabilizer to keep the gas usable when the generator isn’t in use. Plus, the pull-type starter on most generators can prove difficult for some people.


When the power goes out people make a hard decision: Stay and wait it out, or try find another place to shelter from the storm. Family structure can make this decision even more difficult: Children, elderly family members with mobility issues, pets, farm animals, all play into the decision. Getting someplace else in the snow isn’t easy either. Driving in the snow requires the right kind of vehicle, the right kind of tires: Both of which are all pricey purchases for low-income families.

The cost of the storm

Road departments worked diligently to keep up with the record breaking temperatures and conditions, but for some earners in low income families, they may be pressured by managers to show up for work. This can mean they may have to take the “good” vehicle in, leaving family members without transportation if something happens. For others missing a week of work, means being a week’s pay short at the end of the month: A utility bill, a late car payment, an insufficient funds fee, which means the storm will continue to have impacts long after the snow has melted.

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