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Posted on Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:30 a.m.

Snoprah 2011: It's time to stock up like it's 1999

By Jen Eyer


Shades of Y2K: The bread aisle at Meijer in Brighton on Monday

Photo courtesy of Mona Shand

Call me a skeptic, naïve or even a killjoy, but I’ll believe Snowmageddon 2011 when I see it.

I didn’t move to Michigan yesterday. These weather events rarely amount to anything near their hype.

Remember the derecho?

But I know a lot of people who didn’t move to Michigan yesterday either, and many of them are in quite a tizzy over the impending snowpocalypse.

On Facebook, the tsnownami is practically all anyone can talk about. Photos from the great blizzard of 1978 are making the rounds, along with that scary NASA satellite photo showing a storm system covering a third of the Continental U.S.

Friends have also posted photos of bare bread and milk aisles at local grocery stores on Monday. One friend wisely wondered why bread and milk — are we all supposed to make french toast?

Bottled water is another hot commodity I didn't understand at first — can't you just eat snow if your pipes freeze and you don't have any water? But apparently eating snow will make you more dehydrated.

And bananas. What is with the bananas? A Whole Foods cashier told my colleague Jessica Webster that bananas are selling out everywhere.

According to this story, wine is also flying off the shelves at Trader Joe’s. Finally, something I get. If we're going to be house-bound for the next 36 hours, plenty of wine would be a good thing.

Since I've got a full wine rack, though, I'm not making a grocery store run. Oh, we also have nearly a whole loaf of bread, and a gallon and a half of milk. Maybe I'll fill a couple of pitchers with water tonight. I figure if we really do get snowed in for days, we’ll eventually get creative with the random stuff that’s been kicking around the pantry. Brown rice with mandarin oranges and panko-breaded artichoke hearts, anyone?

I'm relishing the thought of my kids having to eat something other than mac & cheese.

I’ve also read reports of gas stations being overwhelmed. I'm not sure why I'd need a full tank of gas if I can't drive anywhere, except maybe to have somewhere to warm up if the power goes out.


Because blizzards cause potassium deficiency

Photo courtesy of Jessica Webster

Still, the hullabaloo makes me wonder weather my skepticism is misguided this time. What’s the real risk in a situation like this?

In the blizzard of ’78, about 20 people in Michigan died, mostly due to heart attacks or traffic accidents.

Lesson #1: Don’t have a heart attack (out of my control).

Lesson #2: Don’t drive in the storm (under my control).

In addition to the deaths, many people were hospitalized for exposure, mostly from homes that lost heat in power outages.

And that’s the issue. People didn’t die of starvation, but some suffered from a lack of heat.

So what can you do to stay safe in the worst-case scenario?

After not driving, probably the most important thing is to have an alternate source of heat, such as a gas fireplace, or a wood burning stove or fireplace.

Other practical tips for a winter power outage, from Tufts University:

  • To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
  • Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.
  • If pipes freeze, remove insulation, completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they are most exposed to the cold. A hand-held hair dryer, used with caution, also works well.
  • To protect against possible voltage irregularities that can occur when power is restored, you should unplug all sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Be extra cautious if you go outside to inspect for damage after a storm. Downed or hanging electrical wires can be hidden by snowdrifts, trees or debris, and could be live

And if all is well at my house, I'll check on my elderly neighbors. Make sure they have heat and food, and a way to communicate if they need something. Help them dig out, so they don't have a heart attack trying to do it themselves.

Of course, this is all assuming the snowpocalypse comes. Which it won't.

Jen Eyer fully expects to receive snarky emails if the blizzard materializes tonight. Until then, she's being entertained by the musings of fellow skeptics on the Blizzard of 2011 Michigan Support Group page on Facebook. Email Jen at



Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 11:49 a.m.

Jen, your instincts were right, of course!!!

Jen Eyer

Thu, Feb 3, 2011 : 3:09 a.m.

Even so, I was a bit disappointed!


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

Bananas = Quite possibly the WORST survival food. Bananas? Seriously? I don't think I could find anything more perishable. And they turn black in the cold!

Atticus F.

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

I always keep a well stocked liquor cabinette for just such an emergency.


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

A nicely aged bottle of scotch and the internet will keep me busy for days. I'll probably forget about the storm.

Rork Kuick

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

I don't believe the part about eating snow dehydrating you. If you are cold, it might make you colder - that I will admit. I've sucked my share of snow cones backpacking in the Cascades.

Atticus F.

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

Couldn't you just melt the snow, and then drink the water?

Jen Eyer

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

I know, it seems strange. If it ever came came down to it, I'd certainly try it.

Eva Johnson

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

I have stocked up on chips and dip, as well as plenty of beer and wine. My husband and I also have decided that if we need heat, we can burn one of the couches that we hate! :) Honestly, I can't believe all the hype. I am sad that banana bread won't be an option for a few days...all the bananas were gone at Meijer.

Jen Eyer

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

@Linda: Yes, a 2-day supply of chocolate would have me running to the store, too!

Linda Diane Feldt

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

I had to go out for chocolate, I only had a couple days supply. But otherwise I always have enough food stocked up for months of eating. What with buying in bulk (50 pound bags of oatmeal, rice, corn, wheat berries, etc.) a well stocked root cellar, and a pantry of dried beans, grains, frozen food from last summer, etc. I don't ever fear running out of food. But chocolate? That would be a concern.

Jessica Webster

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

I've got a few cans of garbanzo beans and jars of roasted red peppers to go with your artichoke hearts. And, inexplicably, over a dozen boxes of pasta. Hmmmm....

Tammy Mayrend

Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

All this hype is highly amusing to me, better yet I have read the best snow-storm terms... Snowprah, Snowmageddon 2011, snowpocalypse...


Tue, Feb 1, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

Jen, I read your headline and got scared. I thought some giant Oprah shaped snow beast was headed this way and the only effective counter measure was turn of the century prince music! Nice article with some great advice, though.