The weather out here is kicking us in the teeth and unless you’re a masochist or a polar bear, the frigid temperatures and massive snowfall aren’t thrilling to you, either.
That said, it gives us a good opportunity to consider what freelancer Jenna Glatzer once noted: If you open the aperture of your mind, anything can become a story. Sure, the standard weather stories are always part of news coverage, regardless of your media platform or geographic region. As a newspaper reporter, I think weather stories accounted for about one-third of my entire writing portfolio. How cold was it? How many accidents were there? How much snow fell? When was the last time it got this bad?
Sure, that can be exceedingly boring, but a wider aperture can bring in a few more stories of interest. Consider these ideas and see if you can come up with a few of your own:
SUPPLY RUNS: Grocery stores and gas stations become Ground Zero for panicked people who apparently decided to wait until the first flakes fell before figuring out that stocking the fridge might be a good idea. A narrative look at this real-life “Hunger Games” would be cool if you could spend some time at a store shortly before the snow hit.
If you can’t get ahead of the storm, a follow-up story on what tended to disappear fastest or what people tended to stock up on would be kind of cool to see. I have no idea why people grab things they wouldn’t normally grab when it looks like we’re stuck under a blanket of white for a while. Amy used to grab milk and bread, even though we lacked anything to put ON the bread and both of us are lactose intolerant.
When I went to the store today, I stocked up on comfort food: soup, mac ‘n’ cheese cups, Ramen, Hot Pockets, Diet Coke and snacks. The guy in front of me in line appeared to have a different approach to weathering the weather:
Seeing this guy unload his cart reminded me of a story a friend of mine once told about riding out a freak blizzard in Alabama one year on nothing but Twinkies and beer for about four days. If you are reading this and thinking, “There is no way that is true,” all I can say is you just have to meet Steve and it will all make sense.
BOOMING BUSINESSES: Speaking of people who need stuff, aside from the grocery store (and apparently the beer industry), which companies make money hand over fist in this kind of situation? Snow removal services are likely kept busy, but so are tow trucks and home-improvement stores where people can get shovels, salt, snowblowers, propane heaters and more.
A ride-along with a tow truck driver could be an amazing time if all goes right, or simply talking to service clerks about the two people who got into a brawl over the last Toro Snow Thrower could give you some neat anecdotes.
FRISKY BUSINESS: When Amy worked on the OB floor of a hospital, the nurses always joked about “snow babies.” When a blizzard hit and forced everyone off the roads and to shelter in place, the nurses would look nine months ahead on the calendar and immediately put in for their vacation, as they expected the delivery rooms to be overflowing with expectant mothers.
This could be an old wives’ tale or it could be a case of, “Well, honey, the cable is out…” but medical folks swear a surge of newborns come into play nine months after major snowstorms. It might be worth a look at this in your area to see if the hospitals are looking forward to a bumper crop of kids around October.
SCHOOL RULES: Does your school have an actual set of rules pertaining to when they cancel classes due to weather-related concerns? One weird question I have for UWO is that we always get emails saying that all the events are canceled on campus, but that “campus will remain open.” Why? Is this a way to force people on staff to use vacation if they want to stay home? Is it something regarding higher education rules pertaining to the campus needing to be open a certain number of days? Is it to keep the food services open for the kids in the res halls?
Also, what are the liability issues for the university in terms of bringing people to campus for work? Or for students, faculty and staff who might fall on snow-covered parking lots or slippery sidewalks? Something tells me most schools have some sort of legal coverage on this, or else half the students I know would be purposefully face planting around campus in hopes of getting out of paying tuition.
Hope these ideas help and that you get to stay safe and warm!
Vince (a.k.a. The Doctor of Paper)