Getting Ready for the Baltimore Maryland Storm Snowzilla

Our driveway, Saturday morning

I’ve been in a state of denial this winter thanks to the unusually warm and dry weather we’ve been enjoying in Maryland this year. I’ve even been able to sneak in a round or two of golf, long after the clubs have traditionally been mothballed for the winter. I got into the habit of checking my smartphone weather app 15 days in advance and marveling that the Baltimore weather was staying dry well into January.

This state of grace came to a sudden end when the weather service began predicting a snow storm for this weekend, January 22. A significant storm. A deadly storm.  My weather app broke the news that Baltimore, Maryland and all the mid-Atlantic was doomed to collect two feet of snow or more over the weekend. As the week before wore on, the whole region began to rise to a state of overall preparedness, bordering on alarm.

My wife works late on Thursdays as a physician in Lutherville. When she came home from her long day she pondered that we never got that emergency generator we talked about buying after our last big storm. We were lucky not to lose power that time, when thousands of Maryland homes were cold and dark for days or even weeks, so we decided to play it safe and pick up a generator. Lulled into a false sense of security by our so far temperate winter, that item had not yet been brought into our home. But at 8:30 on Thursday night before a storm predicted to start on Friday afternoon, I said “we can still get one tonight.” My wife agreed to stay home and clean the dishes while I journeyed in search of a generator.

Searching online, it appeared that our local Home Depot in Owings Mills had none in stock.

Expanding the search proved no better: Home Depots across the Baltimore area were generally out of stock. I began to feel desperate, and switched my search to Lowe’s.

Lowe’s seemed more promising. There were no generators available in Timonium, but a few stayed on the shelf in Parkville (we’re in Reisterstown). I called that store and was told that from five that had been brought down to the floor, only two were left. I begged the store to hold one for me, but was told they could not. I would have to show up at the store, credit card in hand.

I began to feel a little desperate. I raced out of the house and sped the 25 minutes to Parkville. My gps app proved perfect and I arrived with at least an hour before the Taylor Avenue store closed at 10 pm. I walked in the door and was met with bedlam.

Customers were grabbing 25 pound bags of ice and shovels. Plenty of people were clambering over the snow throwers. A few were eying the generators. Not before I got mine! I thought, and raced over to the sales staff: I was happy to see that the two generators were still on the floor, waiting for me.

Turns out there were several more generators back in the store, and several display models that Lowe’s was willing to sell me for 10% off. Relieved, I settled on the Briggs & Stratton 5500-Running Watts Portable Generator. My wife was cheerleading over the phone, running down the online reviews of each model, and I was fortunate that the store had two brand new in the box. Just as the store was closing one of them was mine.

Curiously, although high priced generators were available, the store was out of gas containers, a problem because my brand new generator needed gas to operate. I knew as I checked out and loaded the generator (an expensive item that I actually hoped to never have to use) that my storm preparations would continue into Friday.

By Friday morning, the anxiety level in Baltimore was beginning to rise. Facebook contributed to the climbing stress by telling us about the need for meaningful preparedness, like this great video from my friend Talbot Watkins:L

The governor had declared a state of emergency, so we closed the office right from the start.

This also freed me to search for gas containers to power our new generator. Walking into the Owings Mills Home Depot at 7 am I felt like I was part of a frenzied evacuation from a zombie apocalypse: customers were already jammed into the store, buying enormous bags of ice melt, shovels, wood pellets, generators (yes, the Owings Mills Home Depot did have them after all) and, to my surprise, snow throwers. (The difference between a snow thrower and snow blower? The blower sends the snow further away).

Watching the customers carry away their snow throwers left me feeling uneasy; should I be buying this too? What if the plough doesn’t reach our home until Tuesday? Will we be able to dig out? I shrugged off this fear and was disappointed to find that both Home Depot and the nearby Walmart were both out of gas containers. Finding the fuel to power my new generator was going to be harder than I thought.

I called my wife to tell her to keep up her search for gas containers. Pay dirt! Her clinic is in the same shopping center as an auto parts store, so she had scored a five gallon and a three gallon container. When I told her about the snow thrower she urged me to turn around and get one: she needed to be back in her office Monday morning to see over 20 patients and we had to be sure she could get out. By this time I was already in my office cleaning up a few things and decided to head over to Lowe’s in Lutherville.

By 11:30 a.m., Lowe’s was in peak frenzy.

Long lines at the cashier were filled with people holding their shovels, windshield wiper fluid, ice melt and quite a few snow throwers. Generators were hot tickets, as well as paper towels and ice scrapers. I found my way to the snow thrower section and bought a 26 inch Troy Bilt. It felt safe and sturdy. Big and heavy. As it turned out, too big for my car, so I had to head two miles over to Enterprise and rent a cargo van to carry the snow thrower home.

By the time I got back to Lowe’s with the cargo van it was just after 1pm. The panic was beginning to subside. The shelves were picked clean (but I did manage to grab another two gas containers). I loaded up the snow thrower, got gas to fill up my containers and headed home. A good thing: the snow started falling just after 3 pm.

I’ve probably never been better prepared for a storm. Right now (Saturday 8:15 am) there’s at least a foot of snow on my driveway. I sure hope I don’t have to use my new snow thrower or generator, but I’m ready just in case I do.

How about you? Did you prepare for storm? What did you do? Click here and leave a comment, I’d love to hear your story.

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