how to survive a blizzard

The Midwest is buried in snow, immobilized, recovering from a storm of historic proportions. I know, because I read about it on

I didn’t experience it, however, after about four days in which we all prepared. Lines at the supermarket were long, and the kids all looked forward to, and had, a snow day. People were out buying generators. I even bought a pack of D-batteries and filled a few bottles of water in case we lost power.

We didn’t. As far as I can tell, no one did. It was not “the end of the world as we snow it”, despite what it said in the newspapers. Not here anyway. In Chicago, maybe. My son’s car was buried.

We did get six to eight inches of snow, and quite a bit of blowing and drifting. We have a long country driveway, and I couldn’t get out until our friend John Bailey came by with a plow. I shoveled the porch and sidewalk, but while it was deep it was also light and fluffy. No heart attack here.

Technically, it may have still been a blizzard, which is more about wind and visibility than it is about snowfall. But it blew through at night so I don’t know if you could see a quarter of mile or not; it was dark and I was asleep, which seemed like the sensible thing. I lived though it, though, and that makes me an expert. So here are my tips on how to survive a blizzard.

Turn off the TV. The expectations created by the media, which needs to sell papers after all, are always a little hyped. Talking heads on TV repeat the same things for days, finding footage of past storms and interviewing experts who no one would normally listen to. While the weather service will err on the side of caution, the media will err on the side of sensationalism.

Shop early. Seriously. The stores are crowded before a storm and crazy before a blizzard. One tweet I saw was a guy at the store buying jerky and ammunition. But even if you just need a gallon of milk, you will be in line with the guy who bought the last snow shovel in the county.

Eat soup. A nice pot of homemade soup on the stove is an antidote to the frenzied anxiety of the newscasters and ammunition buyers. A cup of tea will go along way too. Something warm is comforting. Something slow is better.

Have fun. As a local columnist puts it: “Alarmism is not the main reason for pre-storm hoopla. The main reason is popular entertainment. It’s entertaining to live through an adventure instead of a winter.” Even if it doesn’t come, it’s more interesting than another gray day in Michigan. You might even get the day off.

I tried, but called into an hour and a half phone conference instead. Answered some email. But I’m still sitting here in my pajamas so that’s something. Plus we got to imagine a blizzard without having to actually go through it. It’s like the best of both worlds.

Actually, as a fifth generation Floridian, I prefer a hurricane for excitement. You can be sure the lights will go off, and there will be mangos and coconuts blown out on the streets from your neighbor’s yard.

And you won’t have to shovel the snow.

5 thoughts on “how to survive a blizzard”

  1. As a fifth generation Michigander I was mostly disappointed. As you said– the snow came at night so we missed the best part of it– when you can hear the wind howling and see the snow lashing at the windows. I stayed up late last night– so I got a little of it– the wind rattling our old windows. This morning I got to sleep in and found that the world was quiet when I came downstairs to make StarWars pancakes for the six-year-old– who would have had a day off of school anyway since he’s still getting over the cold that has little nose all raw and red. I’m glad we didn’t lose power and that we are in a warm house– but I could have gone for a nice, thick blanket of snow that kept people in for a while.

  2. We “got it good” here in Massachusetts. . . 3rd blizzard in 3 weeks. See my Facebook page for photos uploaded today while the storm was ongoing. Yesterday when the blizzard was in its early stages, it took me 2 hours to drive home on the highway from a teaching commitment . . . the ride TO the commitment had taken only 50 minutes. As I crawled past spun out, stuck cars, I thanked God for my vehicle’s special “snow drive” setting, radio, heater and cup wells, and for my cell phone – “just in case of an emergency”

    I’m in agreement with all your “instructions” for blizzard survival. I would also add “make wholegrain bread by hand” to go with the soup! I made 2 loaves when I got home from teaching . . . the most soothing “aroma therapy” . . . and the ultimate “comfort food.” 🙂

    The “upside” of all this precipitation is that Punxatawny Phil didn’t see his shadow, so Spring is supposedly only 6 weeks away. Unfortunately, empirical research shows that the groundhog is correct only 39% of the time.

    If we don’t get any further storms, all this snow might melt by Spring . . . in 2012!!

  3. Since I work from home, I didn’t get a snow day, but I did get to leap backwards into the air, land in a pile of fluffy snow and make a perfect snow angel so the blizzard lived up to all my expectations.

  4. We arrived in Englewood Tuesday and are enjoying your home town area. Walked to the library and coffee shop yesterday. Today it’s grey and misting, but we loved the sun yesterday. We’re at 140 Church.

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying your indoor reprieve from a hectic schedule. When I taught, snow days were a blessing! Stay home with a great excuse to not go out.

  5. You made a good point about the television and the news castors. I can’t watch the news without getting anxious about everything. I find it’s very important not to get too carried away in the crowd’s fears, or even personal fears. The importance of policing our thoughts and hedging off our fears becomes more apparent in those with a history of delusion or paranoia. (Contrary to the textbooks, it is possible to have insight sometimes.) But as christians it is just as important.

    I love thunderstorms. Hurricanes can be fun in Florida but only if the weather is nice. Without air conditioning people get very grumpy and it’s less fun playing monopoly by candlelight the second week in with still no power and the humidity at 110%.

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