Snow Event 2009: Panic in Minneapolis

Snowmageddon!It was February 26, 2009.  In the language and psyche of Minnesota, this was to be . . . The Day.  Snowmageddon.  Snow Emergency.  The End is Upon Us.  You betcha, we’re in trouble.

The lines at the stores were insane.  People buying all the eggs, butter, milk and bread they could fit into their baskets.  Cross country skis, fire extinguishers and trampolines – allowing you to jump off the roof of the house and clear massive snow drifts – were also big-ticket items.  It was panic in the home and desperation in the streets.  Pushing, shoving, yelling, screaming . . . in New York City, this is 30 seconds in a subway station.  In Minneapolis, it’s unheard of.

Local meteorologists were acting like squirrels overdosing on nuts.  There they were doing live shots on top of buildings, on bridges and standing on the side of the interstate while interviewing snow plow drivers.

Anchor:  Let’s go to Lars Lindstrom who’s standing in the passing lane of 394…Lars, how are things?

Weather Guy:  Hiya Gunnar and good afternoon folks, Well, I’m standing here with one of Minnesota’s heartiest, snow removal professional Nils Nystrom.  Nils, how you feeling right about now?

Snow Guy:  Tell you what, and I’m not afraid to say it Lars…I’m a little nervous.  I’m a little edgy.  We get snow events around here once every 200 years and uh, frankly, we’re overdue.

Weather Guy:  It might be the big one…is Minneapolis ready to face it?

Snow Guy:  Hard to tell…hard to tell…we’re just gearin’ up and hopin’ for the best.

Weather Guy:  Have you heard how much snow is on the way?

Snow Guy:  They tell me we might be gettin’ somethin’ like…five inches?

Weather Guy:  Right……….five inches.  Devastating.  How do we get through it?  How do we survive something like this? 

Snow Guy:  Can’t tell you…my fear — my fear is — my……………we get five inches, we’re gonna run outta salt.  And when that happens, this city – this region………….it’s over.  Done.  I don’t know…I just don’t know.

Weather Guy:  If we get three inches, it’s the beginning of the end around here.  Chaos.  That’s what we’re talking about.  Utter chaos.  It’s a bleak picture Gunnar.  Even Minnesota’s heartiest are scared.  Back to you…

You see, there’s a few unsavory things going on here.  Little Minneapolis secrets.  Well I’ve had it.  I’m taking the smile out of Wild Rice Soup and exposing all of us so the rest of the nation can get a more accurate picture of life in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Shhh…Folks here are paralyzed by the cold

The Michelin Man...or, a Minnesotan in WinterAround the country, we’re thought of as happy little lunatics who live for the days when the temperature is at 0.  And we’re more than happy promoting that idea.  Our greatest poster boys and girls are the weather-hardened, impervious-to-cold, teenagers throughout the state.  If you’ve been here, you’ve seen them.  They’re the ones who walk around in shorts and t-shirts when the windchill is -30.  Their arms and legs look like boiled lobster shells but bless their crusty little hearts, they’ll insist they’re toasty.

You haven’t lived until you can hear your own eyes blink while you’re out on the deck grilling in a hailstorm.  You chillin?’ 

The truth is, we wear enough layers from November to April to look like the Michelin Man.  I love the smell of frostbite in the morning.

The Minnesota Equation:  Snow = Fear = One of Us

This notion that when it snows, we ditch our cars in favor of cross-country skiing to work –  sure, that’s exactly what we do.  When I have a 2o-mile drive and it’s snowing so hard you can’t see the car in front of you, I desire nothing more than braving whiteout conditions – in shorts and a t-shirt – to have a Mt. Everest virtual reality experience.

This is one of the great misconceptions of Minnesotans.  I’m here to tell you, snow is a four-letter word for FEAR!  Oh sure, some will take umbrage with me.  Some will say “what the heck do you know Skippy, you’re not even ‘One of Us.'”  I’ve been here nearly 10 years but that doesn’t cut it.  You need a full 10 to even qualify for an official Minnesota One of Us card.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Being a member of One of Us is a big deal here.  A very big deal.  To wit:  If you’re at a restaurant or bar and say something even a little bit out of line . . . something that no true Minnesotan would say . . . something like, “Well, I don’t know, I just don’t see the Vikings going to the Super Bowl this year” someone will immediately step in and say “HOLD ON, EVERYONE RELAX . . . . . . EVERYONE CALM DOWN . . . . . . . . . . . . He’s not one of us.”  Riot averted. 

When you’re not One of Us, we know.  We care.  And we try to help.

Minnesota is a wonderful place but understand this:  If you’re coming here in the winter, you had better be familiar with The Minnesota Equation.  It lives above, beneath and within the very fabric of life in this state.  Learn it, feel it, know it.

Come Join the Flakes!

Illustration credit EnviroZine
Animation image Mark DeRidder

Filed Under: humorMinneapolis

About the Author: Christopher Gabriel is the host of the cleverly named Christopher Gabriel Program on AM 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. You can hear him weekdays from 9 to Noon. As a writer and humorist, his work has been been published online by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters and publications within the Sun-Times News Group.

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  1. territerri says:

    GASP! You’ve spilled the secret! I’m not sure you’re every going to be able to earn your “one of us” card now.

    (I’m going back to huddle under my down comforter now. Can you believe that it’s actually cold? In winter? In Minnesota? Criminy!)


  2. When I visited you guys there in Feb. 2000, it was (and still is) the coldest temps I have ever experienced. They were in the MINUSES! It was seriously horrible. I hate the cold.
    I had to smile at your “Not one of us” comments. I’m certainly not a Northeasterner after 10 years, and I don’t pretend to be. Disturbingly, people are increasingly mistaking me for being “from the area” though, but that’s only when they first meet me. I’m sure if they spend a little longer, they’ll see I am a crazy, friendly Southerner.
    Oh- and do you seriously ever think you’ll be taken for a Minnesotan? I don’t think they make that brand of hyper up there. That’s East Coast!


  3. CGabriel says:

    Terri, I knew there was the chance I would blow any opportunity for my One of Us card with this post. Now, I’m certain of it. I completely forgot you are on the One of Us Admissions Committee. And “Criminy,” in Minnesota-speak as I’ve been told, means “Out of luck bucko.”

    Bummer. That’s universal-speak for “Bucko is out of luck.”


  4. CGabriel says:

    Nice to see you again, Stamford Talk

    “That brand of hyper”…….that is about the funniest thing I’ve read or heard associated with me in a long time…and believe me, I’ve heard my share!!

    In the era of branding our business, branding ourselves, etc., it never occurred to me that my hyper is indeed a brand. About 20 years ago, it was either a sister-in-law or my mother-in-law who said “he’s like a strong wind when he comes into the room.”

    But you’re right ST, most folks up here – I’m the Greek goose flying with the 11 Scandanavian ones. They’re a bit introspective, warm, respectful and fly beautifully together……and then there’s me. 🙂


  5. Mike says:

    I’ll pass on the “One Of Us” card. I live in Missouri, and it’s cold enough for me during the winter as it is. I couldn’t imagine living further north. We still have the crazy “pre-snowstorm shopping trips” here, though. You should see me out on the icy road in my little ZX2. It might look like a red M&M with four tires, but it’ll cover some ground with me behind the steering wheel. (Loosely translated: stay out of my way.)


  6. CGabriel says:

    Hey Mike, based upon your “stay out of my way,” I feel confident in saying you’d do very well driving in NYC. 🙂 Driving there is like playing “Asteroids.”


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