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The end-cap for the Cheez-Its at the Shop Rite in Brookfield, Connecticut, Thursday, August 25, 2011.

The Northeast isn’t usually subjected to scary weather events like Hurricanes. You’d think, because we’re used to preparing for blizzards and ice storms, we know how to stock our pantries: before a snow storm, you’ll see the shelves for bread, milk, and eggs practically empty (despite the baking jokes, I think in the winter it is probably true that some people bake when they’re snowed in). But water and everything else is usually readily available.

Hurricane Irene is supposed to hitConnecticutsometime this weekend (I say “sometime” because they keep changing its arrival time). As of Friday afternoon it looked as though it’s going to be a Category 1 when it hits us, and so even though it’s not going to be as horrible for us as our friends down South (and may even be, as with Hurricane Floyd in 1999, downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it gets here), we are taking it seriously. Shop Rite’s shelves were devoid of water by Thursday night and Home Depot was out of batteries by Friday morning. Offices are distributing copies of Emergency Procedures and phone contact lists, and events are being rescheduled to take place ahead of the storm. New York City is bracing for serious damage, evacuating nursing homes and low-lying areas and even noting the MTA may shut down if Irene doesn’t change course (I have just learned as I’m posting this that they are closing tomorrow at noon, and all five WCS Parks, which includes the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, are closed for the weekend).

But there’s something to be said for bracing for possible disaster when you’re just not used to it, or when it’s so out of your experience it almost feels like you’re in a bad Irwin Allen film.

You do strange things.

I, like everyone else—because I believe it’s always good to be prepared—drank the Kool-Aid and went to the grocery store (okay, and the liquor store, because I really, really don’t want to be without wine) to get some staples. I wasn’t surprised to see the parking lot jammed; I wasn’t surprised to see very few carts available; I wasn’t surprised to see the shelves where the bottled water is kept empty. And I wasn’t surprised to see people’s carts full of Apple Jacks and Wonder Bread.

The parking lot at Shop Rite in Brookfield, Connecticut, at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 25.

Another shot of the parking lot. Normally there are plenty of spots available, even at peak times.

This is the furthest row from the store to park, and even it was full.

Normally, this area is crammed with carts in neat rows. Shop Rite employees do a wonderful job of rounding them up on a pretty consistent basis, so this tells you how crazy everything was.

Thursday, August 25: The shelves where the bottled water is normally kept at Shop Rite in Brookfield, Connecticut.

A close-up of the signs posted on the empty shelves assuring customers that more water is coming.

I was surprised to see the end-cap full of Cheez-Its almost empty and in total disarray.

For a second, I thought I had missed something: were Cheez-Its on the FEMA list they’d e-mailed me at work? Just as I had that thought, a woman rushed up to the end-cap and threw two huge boxes of the Colby variety in her cart.

I panicked: should I or shouldn’t I? Was it absolutely necessary for me to spend five or ten dollars, or could our household endure the storm without them? If I went home and consulted my housemate and he told me that we absolutely had to have Cheez-Its, and I came back the next day, would they be gone (note: there were no signs signaling a restock of this particular item)? Would our chances of survival decrease if we didn’t have them—and what if I bought the wrong kind? I mean, the Colby variety seemed to be rather popular, as did the White Cheddar. Was there something magical about those types? Would having them in my home ensure nothing bad would happen?

Finally, I decided to take a risk and just say no—after all, it’s my first major hurricane since 1991 (which I spent huddled in a bathroom inNewport), why not live dangerously? A little thrill is good for the soul. I decided instead to get four extra rolls of toilet paper (because we might not be able to go outside and collect leaves), Jiffy-Pop (fun on the gas stove!), and Chef Boy-ar-dee Ravioli (which can be eaten cold).

Many stores are re-stocking their water and batteries before the storm arrives, so you should still be okay with that if you’re doing your shopping at the last minute.

But if you’ve waited this long to get your Cheez-Its, you may be out of luck.

My housemate made certain we have plenty of spring water. We can’t water our plants with what comes from our tap anyway, so if we get lucky and we don’t need it, we’ll use it up eventually.

The extra toilet paper—and paper towels. You know, in case there’s a leak in the roof.

Jiffy Pop and other items we never eat.

The deer don’t appear spooked. Maybe this is a good sign?

The color of the sky at sunset on Thursday, August 25, 2011.

The calm before the storm: my back porch, Thursday, August 25, 2011.