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Posted at 3:24 PM ET, 02/ 4/2010

Stocking up for snow -- and the Superbowl

By Washington Post editors

Crowds started gathering at 6 a.m. Thursday at the Safeway in the Belle View Shopping Plaza in Fairfax County — well before the first snowflakes were predicted to fall — hoping to stock up not only for the coming snow storm, but for their Superbowl parties on Sunday.

By mid-day, managers were handing out chocolate chip cookies to harried shoppers throughout the store, the Duraflame logs and ice melt pellets were running low, the bananas were wiped out and the lines of full to bursting shopping carts at all nine check-out counters were backed up all the way into the aisles.

“It’s getting crazy,” said Michael Roark of Cabin John as he slammed shut the back trunk of his four-wheel drive Chevy Suburban packed with more than $300 in groceries. He had just finished up his pest control job near the Safeway when he heard the news that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency. He figured he’d better stop in.

“I got bread, milk, eggs, the usual weekly grocery shopping,” he said. “Plus, all the snack food we’ll need for the Superbowl. My wife asked me to do the shopping because she couldn’t deal with the crowds.”

Sabrina Stark, who lives nearby, took advantage of her two children being in school to rush out and stock up on laundry detergent, staples for meals for several days and, most importantly, she said, “videos.”

In the store, carts backed up in front of the milk case. Over in frozen foods, Susan Botts tossed a box of Bagel Bites into her quickly filling cart.

“I’m from the Midwest and in true Midwest fashion, I’m stocking up on staples like I always have because we’re going to be in for a few days. The only difference here is we won’t have subzero weather,” said the mother of four.

She pawed through her cart, she had two gallons of milk, several loaves of bread, soft drinks, wine and chips for the Superbowl. The brown sugar and other staples were for the cooking and baking she loves to do with the kids when they’re hunkered down in a storm. “We’re going to make chicken and dumplings. Pumpkin Bread. Chocolate chip cookies. Chili.” She smiled and trailed off.

This store, like all Safeway stores in the region, had already stocked up for the Superbowl shoppers, said spokesman Craig M. Muckle. “We had already anticipated heavier than usual shopping,” he said. But the storm had sent the store into overdrive. The number of shoppers at just this one store was triple what they usually have on a typical Thursday during the day, he said. Usually, they have four cashiers on duty. Instead, they called in reinforcements and had all nine cashiers ringing up shoppers. Managers were working cash registers, re-stocking shelves, working the bakery and replenishing the fast-disappearing piles of produce.

Muckle pointed out that one thing shoppers will not find at area Safeway stores are snow shovels. "We sold out in December," he said.

After waiting patiently for several minutes in the check-out line, Carol Hurckes heaved a heavy box of Duraflame logs onto the counter. She had first sought to do her grocery shopping at the commissary at nearby Fort Belvoir, but couldn’t even find a spot in the parking lot. “It was unbelievable. So packed,” she said. Instead, she filled her pick-up truck with gas and headed to Safeway.

As her groceries were neatly stuffed into bags, she paused. “The only thing I forgot is candles,” she mused. “We always lose electricity in these storms.”

She figured she’d head to Whole Foods next.

--Brigid Schulte

By Washington Post editors  | February 4, 2010; 3:24 PM ET
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