Column: Snoprah 2011: It's time to stock up like it's 1999
Photo courtesy of Mona Shand
Call me a skeptic, naÃ¯ve 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.
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.