As of 7 p.m. on Wednesday, hardly a snowflake had fallen across Manhattan. There were a few flurries earlier in the afternoon, but nothing that could be considered accumulation. Still, that did not stop Manhattan residents and K-State students from preparing for the forecasted blizzard.
Rumors began spreading around campus that the next day’s classes would be cancelled as early as 10 a.m. Wednesday. By mid-afternoon, the university officially announced that the Manhattan and Salina campuses would, in fact, be closed on Thursday.
Dubbed Winter Storm Q by the Weather Channel, the blizzard was expected to make its way through the Manhattan area beginning around 7 p.m. Wednesday night and continue through Thursday. The National Weather Service predicted between 12 and 18 inches of snow during that time period.
However, not everyone in town planned on closing up shop. Plenty of local businesses expected a spike in sales due to the weather, and others had already felt the storm’s effect on local patrons.
“It’s been pretty steady since about 3,” said Christine Thompson, clerk at Ray’s Apple Market, on Wednesday. “Usually people will come in and buy individual bottles of water, or canned food, but today they are buying the large packs and enormous amounts of canned food. A lot of people have been buying candles as well.”
Drew Walters, senior in sociology and bartender at Rock-A-Belly Bar and Deli, said that he would make preparations for the storm as soon as he got off work that evening.
“Toilet paper, some food that you don’t have to cook in case the power goes out, that kind of thing,” Walters said of the provisions he intended to stock up on.
Supermarkets were not the only local retailers taking notice of the situation. With over 20,000 college students receiving an unexpected day off, liquor store employees saw a dramatic surge in sales.
“Our manager said that we started getting slammed as soon as we opened,” said Sheldon Wilson, cashier at Rickel’s Retail Liquor, on Wednesday afternoon. “Then after 1 is when she said we started getting really busy.”
However, not all K-Staters spent the time off partying. Nathan Roth, junior in athletic training and cashier at Rickel’s, said he planned to brush up on some studies.
“I’ve got tests all next week, so I’m probably just going to enjoy the time off, have a few beers and look over a study guide,” he said. “I’m gonna have a good time tonight though, by all means. I just have to catch up on some studying on my day off. That’s for sure.”
Many K-State students probably don’t recall a significant winter storm that blew through Manhattan around five years ago, but Megan Norman, employee at Kite’s Bar and Grill and senior in dietetics, remembers it well.
Right before finals week during the fall semester of 2007, Manhattan took on a crystalline appearance as the city and campus were sheathed in ice. Many were left without power for up to a week. Left either to bundle up in their living rooms or try and search elsewhere for warmth, students flocked in droves to Aggieville, which regained power sooner than the surrounding area.
“I just remember being out of power for so long,” Norman said. “Your house gets really cold. You don’t have generators, so your refrigerator doesn’t work and you don’t have food. The closest place you could go was Aggieville. You knew it would be warm.”
Norman said she remembers Aggieville businesses being so packed that she had to try multiple locations before finding a spot that had room.
“It was pretty fun though,” she said.
Norman described how the drinks and company lifted the spirits of those students trying to get out of the cold.
“Everyone I’ve talked to is already making plans for tonight and tomorrow, since they called class off the day before and not the morning of,” she said.
Norman’s managers and owners at Kite’s were already making calls to employees, trying to bring in extra staff for the next day. Kite’s bartender Jake Westervelt, senior in social science, had already received a call from his bosses earlier in the day.
“They’re just expecting it to be pretty packed,” he said. “They’ve been calling and texting everyone asking if they could come in. I’m sure it’s going to be pretty crazy with school being called off.”
Westervelt believed that the action would begin on Wednesday night and continue Thursday.
“I think it is going start pretty early tonight and then go on into the next day,” he said. “I mean, I get off at 9 tonight and I’m pretty excited to get out and have some fun tonight too.”