QUEENS — By the time Adam Powell, 30, got to the Trade Fair on 30th Avenue Friday morning to stock up on food supplies in advance of Friday's big snowstorm, he found the store's meat shelves already picked clean. Still, he managed to come away with an 8-pound ham.
"I bought a ham, basically because it was the only thing left," he laughed, saying he plans to make soup with his find. "It's empty. People are freaking out."
As the first flurries of Winter Storm Nemo began to fall Friday morning, Astoria residents were hitting neighborhood grocery stores to stock up on the usual bottled water, bread and canned goods.
But several markets said one item in particular has been flying off the shelves: meat.
"They wiped us out," said Richard Finley, 45, Trade Fair's meat manager, as he stood before his empty butcher's case and turned away a customer looking for chicken, then another asking for pork chops. A tray of halal lamb was the only thing left behind the glass.
The meat rush started on Thursday, he explained.
"Just a lot of panicking. Just craziness," he said, noting he was waiting on several expected deliveries to re-stock his shelves. One of his suppliers had already canceled a Saturday shipment because of the approaching storm, he said.
Miriam Vega, 51, was circling the store with her shopping cart while she waited for workers to unload a shipment from a Boar's Head truck that had pulled up out front.
"You never know — look what happened with Sandy," she said, adding that her building at the Astoria Houses was flooded during the October storm. "You got to be prepared. That's all you can do."
Christopher Munoz, 21, bought two packages of steaks at the C-Town on Newtown Avenue and 23rd Street.
"It's full of protein," he said, adding that he had already had his other staples at home, like rice and bottled water.
At the Key Food on 30th Avenue, employee Laura Stevenson pointed out a section of sparsely stocked chicken shelves, saying shoppers had started pouring in Thursday afternoon.
"That's usually full," she said. The neighborhood has a lot of elderly residents who stocked up on meat, she said, with the expectation that they might not leave the house for several days after the storm.
The worst of the snow is expected to hit Friday night, forecasters said, with high winds and more than a foot of snow possible.
Though many of the neighborhood's markets might be low on meat, Astorians can get their fill at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden's annual Pork Fest, a three-day Czech and Slovak food festival that kicks off Friday night and features a full menu of swine-inspired dishes.
Pork Fest will forge ahead in spite of the bad weather, according to manager Larry Spacek.
"We're still on, and we'll be on all weekend," he said.