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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: What — if anything — do you do to prepare for a big storm?

I’m always baffled by the images on the TV news of empty supermarket shelves in advance of a big storm such as a hurricane or the huge snowstorm that’s currently hammering the mid Atlantic region. (Looks like we’re going to escape it entirely in the Bronx.) Even if you’re stuck indoors for an entire weekend, how much bread and milk do you need to tough it out? Surely, at this point, everyone knows that the streets will get plowed and life will get back to normal almost immediately, and the bread trucks and the milk trucks will be moving again.

Me, as long as I’ve got some DVDs — which are always piled up around me regardless of the weather — and some wine, I’m all set for a snowy weekend. My Chinese place has even delivered in two feet of snow in the past, so I’m set for food.

What — if anything — do you do to prepare for a big storm?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Gia

    I’m in Maryland, which is currently being hammered by the blizzard. We didn’t do anything but our normal weekly grocery shopping on Thursday, and I’ve spent the day drinking beer and cooking and cleaning, as I had the day off from my job due to the weather. Later today I’ll put in a DVD and flop on the sofa, but as long as our tree branches hold up, I’m not terribly worried.

  • Althea

    I live in Dallas. We hardly ever get blizzards, and ice storms rarely last more than two days – or the better part of two days anyway, since it’s melting by the end of the second day. But just as sure as dammit, you go to the grocery store the afternoon before, when they’re broadcasting dire warnings that are more important to the Panhandle than the Metroplex, and the parking lot’s full, the store’s full of people stocking up. And I wait in a line to get my loaf of bread.

    As for what I do myself, I hole up in my apartment and glare at the windows all day long, grinding my teeth. Not that I need to go out all that much but maybe I WANT to. &$&@T^*)$$$%@@!!!!! It’s probably a sheet of ice outside my front door – a wooden deck, and all down the wooden stairs. Since I probably forgot to put the stuff out there that prevents the ice. Again. Phfffft.

    So I wait.

  • Heather

    I drink UHT milk most of the time, so I don’t normally need to ‘stock’ up if it’s snowing – I’ll just pop in what I normally get Bread and Milk wise – I always have a couple of the UHT cartons anyway, and I have a bread maker so I don’t bother buying any more bread (it goes stale anyway, so what’s the point in panic-buying more?).

    When we started getting the snow before Christmas, I did buy a few bits in readyness, but that was to create a ‘stuck in snow’ kit for the car – a new (non leaky)thermos, a pack of Pringles (because they reseal) and some chocolate.

    I am picking up de-icer occasionally when I shop, so I always have a spare can/spray but that’s about it. I’ve got plenty of stuff in the freezer, and thanks to Mum’s ‘Hamper’ she did me for Christmas I have plenty dried and tinned food, so even if I was completely cut off, I’d have plenty.

  • LaSargenta

    Panic buying is not usually on my list of things to do. Besides, here in NYC, there really was no reason to panic. All the news programs were screaming about how horrible it ws going to be; but, anyone who actually looked at the radar could see we were at the northern edge of it! Yeah, other people got hammered. But, there were people cancelling plans left and right in Manhattan yesterday all because of the SNOW! OMG! THE SNOW! AAAAAAAAAAAArrrrrrgghhh. *gurgle*

    I woke up this morning and there was a dusting on the sidewalks.

    Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay and that area had worse conditions early today, but that was due to the wind. They still had little snow.

    Anyhow, if I’m here in NYC, as long as I have running water, I’m good. I generally don’t ‘stock up’ and at most I just buy whatever I needed to buy anyhow. If I’m in the country, I don’t ‘stock up’ either because I’m already stocked up. There are dozens of things that could be a problem if you’re living far away from town or other people, so you’re a fool if you wait for an announced emergency to make you keep things on hand! Things I’ve experienced in the country: Tornados, power outages (which can cause water problems as most people’s pumps in their wells use electricity), severe rainstorms, lightning-caused fires, wind storms, ice storms, snow drifts 15′ high, flooding, and my idiot ex-husband going canoing while the river was in flood stage (when he had no — zero — serious canoe experience). All of them turned out just fine.

  • Mo

    Two words: White Juan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Juan

    I will never be baffled by panic buying again after Hurricane Juan. (I live in Nova Scotia.) White Juan was a special kind of nasty because of all the damage left over from the hurricane made the power outages and other problems even worse, as if over 35 inches of snow wasn’t bad enough.

    We’re pretty used to nor’easters here, so storms are generally treated like no big deal, but everyone was so unprepared for Juan and it’s winter twin that we take them seriously now. For one thing the power has always gone out a lot easier even years after the hurricane, so we like most people keep a wind up radio, emergency lights like shakeable flashlights and candles, and so on around and make sure they’re accessible before the power goes out. Unlike most of our neighbours we still don’t have a generator, but we did get a secondary heat source installed just in case we had another incident where there wasn’t any power for a half a week or more in the middle of winter.

    And one of the biggest problems everyone found when a storm is particularly bad like the Juan twins were is that if all the gas stations lose power, it means no gas anywhere for as much as 3 days, and that everything that can open is going to charge cash for that time because all the electronic banking systems will be down. So if it could be really, really bad, yeah, stocking up for the next week can be a good idea unless you keep plenty of cash on hand. But buying stuff that goes in the freezer? Not such a good idea. Even if it is on sale.

  • Muzz

    I know nothing of snow storms, but the prospect of the shops being closed for any reason tends to drive people nuts.
    From working in retail for a while I can tell you that Easter is enough to make people stockpile for that one day of minor inconvenience as though the apocalypse is on its way.

  • Anne-Kari

    Yeah, people do tend to get a wee bit crazy whenever a storm-is-a-coming, especially here in Virginia. And I was right there with those rolling their eyes at the whole media-created “OH MY GOD! SNOWPOCOLYPSE IS COMING!!!” hype. And really, the people around here who are cleaning out the entire meat section and stocking 2 weeks worth of pasta are acting pretty idiotic.

    However, I do live in an area that the plows seem to get to last and where bad weather has been known to knock out power. And I’ve got two young kids. So I did take my usual precautions – enough perishable food staples to last us 4 days, backup batteries for flashlights, firelogs in case we lose our heat, bag of ice-melting salt for the front steps and sidewalk, etc.

    And I’m damn glad I did prepare, because from what I’m dealing with right now, I doubt we’ll be able to get the car out to the main road until Monday at the very earliest. The plow came through this morning, but there’s so much damn snow (my nonscientific measurement is 28 inches), there’s just nowhere to put it.

    I never even thought about ANY of this growing up in NY. Even when we did get hit with a blizzard, we were able to get across the street to the deli for milk or whatever else we might need, and even if the buses weren’t running that well, the subway always worked.

    And we certainly didn’t worry about heat or electricity. But here and now, as a homeowner, if the heat stops working and you’re completely snowed in? Well, you better have something to burn in the fireplace or you WILL freeze.

  • Stefanie

    I live on a quiet street in Maryland with my hubby; two elementary-school-age children; a cranky, geriatric cat with health issues; and a very fat beagle. There is no guarantee on when we will get plowed: The soonest we’ve ever been plowed out is the day after the event; we’ve gone as long as four days. So, like Anne-Kari, we have to make sure there are four days of food staples, plus everything the pets need, firewood, batteries, etc. I also made sure we had Netflix movies of interest to the kids here before the snow hit. Apologies to China King, but we don’t have a good Chinese restaurant nearby, much less one that will deliver in two feet of snow (wish that we did!).

  • Chris

    I live in Columbus, OH, and I’m a 100 yard walk from a Kroger, Target, and Giant Eagle. So yeah, not too worried. And even in rural Ohio, where I grew up, my parents had 4-wheel drive and a deep freeze, so we were set.

  • My Chinese place has even delivered in two feet of snow in the past, so I’m set for food.

    I pity the delivery people in your neck of the woods…

  • RogerBW

    I usually have around a week’s supply of food on hand anyway, so I don’t need to go out in a hurry when someone forecasts bad weather. This is why we have refrigerators, after all.

    I had about 7″ of snow outside the house earlier this year, but while the road wasn’t easily passable by vehicle there was no problem getting through on foot.

    And of course we mostly don’t have overhead low-voltage power lines in the UK, so we generally don’t get power cuts in bad weather.

  • Bluejay

    [Anne-Kari wrote] I never even thought about ANY of this growing up in NY. Even when we did get hit with a blizzard, we were able to get across the street to the deli for milk or whatever else we might need, and even if the buses weren’t running that well, the subway always worked.

    Yep. I love this city. :-)

    Other places are wonderful for other reasons, but in a snowstorm, it’s hard to beat having a deli/grocery store/pharmacy right across the street, and working subways. On the other hand, since storms rarely stop the various transportation options from functioning, our daughter hates the fact that the city almost never declares snow days.

    [LaSargenta wrote] Things I’ve experienced in the country: Tornados, power outages (which can cause water problems as most people’s pumps in their wells use electricity), severe rainstorms, lightning-caused fires, wind storms, ice storms, snow drifts 15′ high, flooding […]

    Power outages, water pump problems, sky-high snow drifts: sounds like our visit to the in-laws in Idaho a couple of winters ago. But the pantry was well-stocked and we just dug out the candles and wool blankets. We had enough bottled water not to worry, but we tried hauling in buckets of snow too; it was annoying (but interesting in a science-experiment way) to see what a ridiculously small amount of water all that snow eventually melted into.

    The power came back on the next day, and we went out sledding.

    Best part about a snowstorm in the country: All the animal tracks in the snow afterwards–deer and wild turkey in our case. And the world looks beautiful.

    (Of course, I particularly like snowstorms that are considerate enough not to happen during our arrival and departure dates.)

  • “On the other hand, since storms rarely stop the various transportation options from functioning, our daughter hates the fact that the city almost never declares snow days.”

    i hate that too. i think the last snow day i remember when i was working a “regular” job was when my sister was pregnant with my nephew… that was in 1983. i long for a snow storm where you wake up at your usual time in the morning, look out the window, and burrow back into your bed with total glee and a clear conscience… but noooo! NYC may not be perfect, or efficient in its use of money in our mass transit, but by gawd! the subways work and the plows are out there. i may have to trudge through sixteen inches of snow to *get* to the bus stop, but once there, the bus takes me to the subway.

    water and flooding are about the only thing that really puts the subway out of whack.

  • Jane

    I live on the East Coast of Florida, and when we’re in a hurricane’s path, the news stations talk about what to do when (not if) the power goes out, the water is no longer drinkable, the ATMs and gas pumps stop working, etc.

    Basically, we stock up on canned goods, bottled water, and batteries, just like everyone else. The food in your freezer and fridge won’t last, so you might as well eat that first. Since our stove is electric, we get fuel for the camp stove we have to use to cook food and to boil the water so that we can drink it.

    This is only after, of course, you go around outside trying to get your house not to blow away and to keep the crap in your yard from blowing around. Seriously, it’s a good time. At least freezing death is not an issue.

  • JasonJ

    Losing power and huge snow storms are normal for where I live (North Idaho). I live in the boonies so being snowed in is always a possibility but never happens. The snow is cleared from the roads before the morning commute, and continues to be cleared as it snows. I have a wood stove as a heating/cooking source with plenty of wood to go an entire winter, plenty of water in jugs, and we usually have enough food to go over a week. Next on my list is a generator though we rarely lose power.

    I am always baffled by the chaos I see on TV when these storms hit. I can see Florida spazzing out from hurricanes, but snow in the north east being a surprise? I don’t get it. You guys freak out over something that has happened every year since Columbus parked his boat there. When I lived in Wisconsin as a kid in the 70’s, we never missed a day of school. The bus always ran even after a big snow storm, and anyone who has experience lake effect snow knows what I mean.

    I think the problem is because winters have been so mild for the last several years that people get surprised by a normal event. We had well over 90 inches of snow last winter that fell from Dec 17th to New Years day, and there was zero problem. I drive a front wheel drive sedan with studless snow tires and have never been stuck. We also have a 4 wheel drive Jeep Grand Cherokee and rarely need 4wd.

    I see video on the news of people spinning out and crashing, in areas where snowfall is normal. I don’t get it. They don’t sell snow tires in the north east any more?

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