The Keweenaw is known for epic snow thanks to Mother Superior’s prodigious lake-effect output. But while most of us locals are used to almost daily flurries of three to six inches of snow, even we go into prepper-mode when John Dee announces a blizzard’s on its way.
For those of you who exclaim “Holy wah!” at the mention of the “B” word, here are some tips from a local on how to prepare, and even enjoy, a full-on Keweenaw blizzard.
What is a Blizzard?
First things first. What does the term “blizzard” really mean, and how is it different than any other snowstorm? According to the National Weather Service, a blizzard is “any severe snowstorm that is accompanied by strong winds—at least 35 mph —resulting in low visibility.” So you needs lots of snow, but strong winds make a blizzard. Mixing snow and high winds creates “whiteout” conditions dramatically decreasing visibility making travel a really bad idea.
Blizzards make travel hazardous, as whiteout conditions and drifting snow create poor road conditions. It's best to hunker down and stay warm.
How to Prepare for a Blizzard
Getting on the road is the last thing you should do during a blizzard, so the ultimate goal is to be prepared to bunker down for a few days to ride out the storm and be ready for all the challenges that loss of electricity can bring. But fear not! With a little bit of early legwork, you can actually enjoy even the most ferocious of blizzards. Let’s dive into what the locals do to prep for the storm.
The forecast is in, and it's calling for several feet of snow.... don't panic....read on to see how to prepare!
You know what’s worse than shoveling a foot or two of snow? Shoveling three or four feet of snow, that’s what. So, first things first, you need to take care of the snow that’s already here before the blizzard dumps even more. If you’ve been a laggard and haven’t already taken care of businesses, grab your Yooper Scoop (or if you’re fancy, a snowblower with those heated handles) and give your driveway and walkways a once over. Your back will thank you once the blizzard clears out.
Snow can pile up FAST. Make sure to keep up on the shoveling. This includes your decks, driveways, and even the roof!
Bring those Shovels Inside
No one likes being left out in the cold, even your best friend, your trusty scoop. While many of us may leave it outside leaning against the garage or back deck most days, you’re running the risk of getting in burried under a foot or three of snow during a blizzard. The strong winds will blow it down and cover it up with snow. Once the storm’s past, have fun playing “seek and find” while you search for the shovel to start digging out. Not only that, but plastic shovels are more prone to cracking when brittle and cold.
Be sure to run to Festy’s or The Genny to grab gas for the snowblower and the generator if you have it as a backup power source You might need to bunker down for a few days to ride out the storm but still need to do multiple rounds of snow maintenance to keep up with quickly accumulating snow.
Snow piles up quickly and makes travel difficult during major storms. Make sure to grab some extra fuel for your plow truck or snowblower before it starts.
Speaking of fuel, you should plan for human fuel too. Especially food that doesn’t require appliances to cook. Those strong winds and heavy snow loads tend to knock out power for extended periods. So, grab a few packs of your favorite Vollwerth sausage (found at almost any Keweenaw grocery store), bread from Roy’s Bakery and cheese for easy-to-make sandwiches. Head over to the Keweenaw Co-Op for a great selection of olives and deli dips to make your own charcuterie board if you really want to impress someone. Don't forget to grab extra pet food for your furry friends, and it's not a bad idea to have some jugs of drinking water on hand, too.
Bring in Extra Firewood
For your third source of fuel, its time to think of about heat. For many locals wood isn’t just for campfires. Its often a secondary or even primary source of space heating. And even if the power goes out, a wood stove will offer plenty of heat to keep you warm and toasty until UPPCO gets the lights back on. If you’re staying in a cozy cabin or B&B and have access to a fireplace or woodstove, grab a couple of extra loads of firewood and bring it inside. And bonus points if you have access to a sauna, as this is a great way to pass the time.
Stock up on firewood so you can enjoy a warm fire during the storm. | Photo by Pure Michigan at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge
Stock Up on Entertainment
When you lose power, you also lose access to cell phone charges, wi-fi, and most other electronics. And since it’s not safe to go outside during a blizzard, you’ll have to find ways to keep yourself entertained. Board and card games are a great way to pass the time. If you didn’t bring any along with you, K. C. Bonkers in Hancock has an incredible selection of games to choose from. You’ll come across some favorites while perusing their shelves and likely discover something new to try.
Grab Plenty of Candles
Without power, you’re also without lights! It’s tough to beat your loved one at Scrabble if you can’t see the board. Make sure you have several candles available and a way to light them. If you don’t have any, we love those made by Finnmaker which offers scents inspired by the Keweenaw and Finland. You can find products from this local creator at many of the Keweenaw’s gift shops. Just be sure to be attentive to any candles you have lit to avoid creating a fire risk. It’s always helpful to have a few high-powered flashlights on hand (with spare batteries), as well.
Candles are great to have on hand if the power goes out, and cheese and wine never hurt, either.
Kick Back and Enjoy
If you followed these basic tips, you’re ready to relax and really embrace the experience of an epic Keweenaw blizzard. Light a fire, make your favorite adult beverage, and grab a seat with a window view to enjoy the show. Best of all, once the storm is past, you get to go our and enjoy all that fresh powder by sled, ski, or snowshoe!
Once the storm is over, get out and enjoy all the fresh powder!
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