It was a Friday morning that felt like a Sunday. The roads and stores went quiet, and the region seemed hungover from the binge that it had gone on the night before, in the mad rush to prepare for the blizzard.
We had been told it will be our worst winter storm in a while, one that has forecasters throwing around words like “historic,” and the rush had started Thursday night. People prepared to live off the grid for a couple days. Everywhere, there was a run on staples. And by Friday morning, as the snow began to fall, the Walmart in Peabody was long out of milk and fuel for camping stoves.
The topic of preparing is a hot one in America. There are shows about doomsday preppers and shows about zombie apocalypses, stories of people who build arks and emergency pods. So we prepare for, and kind of like the idea, of being off the grid at home for a few days, to use some of those emergency supplies and see what it’s like to be unplugged.
At the gas station at the Costco in Danvers, Heather Marino couldn’t understand people topping off their cars before the storm. They weren’t going to be able to drive anywhere, so who cares how much gas is in the car. She herself needed the gas to get home. Marino is one of those who is hoping for a good burying storm, something to shut off the world for a few days. She was in 7th grade when the Blizzard of ’78 hit, and remembers everyone joining in the adventure together. And she has watched enough of those shows about what happens when things break down to have her own strategy, which is that she would occupy a Costco.
Axel Magnuson, who was getting gas at a Shell next to the Liberty Tree Mall, had his supplies ready at home – snowshoes, cross-country skis, firewood, and beer. He was looking forward to a good wallop, but thought that a lot of people get too anxious about these things now, with the 24/7 buildup. “It’s whipping itself into a self-fulfilling thing. It has an end of the world feel.”
Social media was stuffed with reports of a Lord of the Flies feeling in many local grocery stores. Shelves were stripped. People bought things they might not have.
“There are a lot of people who get really anxious about these things,” Magnuson said. “I worry about when moods change and people start cutting you off with their shopping cart.”
As the winds whip up and the snow begins to catch this afternoon, it feels like leaving on a trip and not knowing just where you’re going. Some are hoping for a short trip, and others for a long one. But most everyone is now ready to take it.
“It’s why we live up here,” Chris Fibbe said as he pumped gas into a canister for his tractor at home in Hamilton. “It’s been a couple years.
So it begins, our first good blizzard in a while. It has come with days of hype and a cutesy name, Nemo, because apparently blizzards have names now. But it is here, and ever since the wind came in strong after noon, it has not taken its foot off the throttle. So far, the grid is holding, which means the hashtag #bosnow is raging, because apparently blizzards have hashtags now.Billy Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.