Groceries, generators fly off the shelves as Manitobans prepare for monster blizzard

Manitobans are getting ready to be stuck inside for a few days as a major spring blizzard heads toward the southern part of the province, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades, forecasters say.

Maribel Villanueva stopped by the St. James Superstore in Winnipeg on Monday to ensure her fridge is full ahead of the snow on Wednesday, picking up a few extra items.

“I always love winter, but I think this is the longest, longest winter since I came here in 2002 and I think I’m done,” she said. “I want to move forward to spring and summer now.”

Villaneuva said she didn’t buy too many extra items, but it looks as though others did.

“A lot of the stuff is missing from the shelves, but I got two extra tubs of yogurt,” she said.

Jackie Tower stocked up on groceries for her husband, who will be staying out of the city during the storm. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Environment Canada issued an updated storm watch notice on Monday, saying widespread snowfall of 30-50 centimetres is expected, along with north winds gusting from 70-90 km/h, giving zero visibility at times.

The weather agency recommends stocking up on supplies and medication, and not travelling.

Jackie Tower took that advice seriously.

She and her husband live out of the city in Starbuck, Man., and bought groceries for her husband who is staying there, while she stays in Winnipeg.

“He’s going to be stuck there for a few days, so I figured I’d better stock up,” Tower said.

The news about the weather was “just awful,” she said.

“It was such a nice drive this morning, coming in on the highway, and it was so dry and it’s finally getting light at 6 a.m. and it’s really disheartening,” she said.

Bruce Owen from Manitoba Hydro says hundreds of poles and transformers were ‘severely destroyed’ during the October 2019 snowstorm. Colder temperatures will hopefully make things easier for Hydro crews this week. (Submitted by Manitoba Hydro)

Gay Sul also stopped into Superstore to pick up some essentials, but it turned out to be a longer trip than she anticipated.

“It was really busy. I was in line for quite a while and it just felt like panic buying. There was lot of stuff they were out of,” she said.

Sul is actually looking forward to the storm, saying it forces people to rest.

“It gives people a break, just a break. They can be home and there’s no pressure to go and do other things. Just a sigh of relief. You can just be at home for a while and take a breath,” Sul said.

Some people in the southern part of the province are preparing to lose power.

Generators flying off shelves

Colin Braun, the owner of Altona Farm Service, said all of the generators he had in stock sold before 10 a.m. Monday.

“Obviously with the forecast of the storm ahead, I think more people are preparing, because typically we sell generators during the storm or when it started to look like things are going to get nasty,” he said.

Braun thinks people are particularly worried about water damage in their houses.

“It’s kind of like having health insurance for your house. You buy a generator hoping you never have to use it, but if you have to, you could save things,” he said.

Manitoba Hydro and CAA are also preparing for a storm.

All staff in the storm zone — from front-line hydro workers to back end staff and IT workers — are on notice that they might be needed, said Bruce Owen, the media relations officer for the Crown corporation

“If we have one area of the province that’s hit particularly hard, we already have plans in place that crews from Winnipeg can go and be on the ground quickly. We can deploy and move people needed to do that quickly,” he said.

In 2019, when the province was pummelled by a snowstorm, freezing rain was a major problem, causing damage to power lines that took a lot of time to fix.

Owen says a silver lining is temperatures are forecast to be quite cold during the storm this week, so hopefully freezing rain won’t be an issue.

Heather Mack, the manager of government and community relations for CAA Manitoba says they are also ensuring there are enough workers to take calls and help people in the field.

Because Environment Canada is advising against all travel, Mack hopes there will be fewer people calling CAA for help. 

One message she has for drivers: don’t drive on closed roads.

“Please ensure that you follow those rules because we won’t be able to get to you … if police have closed off a road.”

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