How are the Irish coping with the ‘bomb cyclone’ in the US?
Readers from New York to Virginia share their experiences of the storm
The east coast of the US has been hit by a “bomb cyclone”, experiencing powerful blizzards, frigid temperatures and coastal flooding amid an Arctic freeze which has gripped much of America for over a week, killing more than a dozen people.
How have Irish Times Abroad readers in North America been coping with the storm, and the freezing temperatures?
Jack Stenson, New York
Myself and my husband Stefaan Verbruggen (both from Galway) moved from London to Manhattan last Sunday. We landed at JFK to -17C and didn't have space for all the winter gear we needed so were hilariously unprepared. We've been walking around in the snow in gym shoes while everyone else looks like they're about to hit the ski slopes. We were also left wondering if terms like "cyclone-bomb" and "thunder-snow" was American-media hyperbole, or if we should actually be worried.
The boat back from Ikea Brooklyn to furnish our apartment was particularly cold, but unlike previous generations of Irishmen who landed on the shores of Lower Manhattan we were armed with an assortment of fluffy cushions to hug for warmth.
When the blizzard blew over it left Manhattan looking like the inside of a snow globe. From my office above Madison Square Gardens I've been left with a beautiful view of the unspoilt rooftops. This would be lovely but, while writing this, someone received a text warning that it's dangerous being outside for more than eight minutes. New York... go big or go home eh?
Alan Good, Williamsburg, Virginia
In Virginia the locals say that if you don’t like the weather, just wait a day and it will change. They aren’t wrong; on December 23rd I had a beer outdoors in a t-shirt in 20-degree weather, before feeling like I was being cut in two by a chill wind in near-freezing temperatures on a Christmas Eve walk.
Most of the year it’s hot and sunny though, so the nine inches of snow mounting outside the front door at the moment is a shock to the system. In a hurricane-prone region, people are good at heeding weather warnings, so the supermarkets were packed before this storm. Bottled water, ice scrapers and shovels didn’t last long on the shelves.
However, the state isn’t especially well-equipped to handle cold weather so the roads are to be avoided, as much due to drivers ignoring the dangers of the icy surfaces they aren’t accustomed to, than the ice itself. Record low temperatures are expected over the coming nights, but by next week we’ll be warmer than Spain again.
Owen O'Riordan, Cambridge, Massachusetts
As the person responsible for snow operations for the City of Cambridge, this storm has been difficult and has required an all resources response from the City. Given the extreme cold both before the storm, and that which is expected over the next few days, we are very concerned for those who are homeless or who have inadequate heating in their homes, as well as the impact on our manpower as we try and complete a cleanup after the snow event itself. So far it is not as bad as the winter of 2014 yet, but we are just at the start of the snow season.
John McGarry, New York
I live in Woodside in New York. Yes it snowed, it was cold and it was windy. The heat in my building was out for a while, but all the hype over this storm is unwarranted. It was a pretty normal winter event for this part of the world. The problem lies in the fact the US has an aging, decaying infrastructure and lacks the political will to do anything about it. Rampant poverty in the US, rooted in social inequality, makes the cold deadly for some, when it shouldn’t be.
Stephen Cass, New York
This wasn’t the worst storm I’ve experienced, even for New York City, where conditions are typically a little milder than in Boston (where I shivered through three winters). The ultimate indicator of exceptionally bad weather in NYC is simply if people ask, “Is the subway still running?” And though there were delays and problems on some surface lines, by and large the trains kept chugging.
I pulled on my snow boots and went to work on Thursday morning when about three inches of snow had accumulated. By the time I left about eight inches had piled up-our office did close early so we could get home before it got dark, when navigating the drift and slush on the streets and sidewalks is truly treacherous. It is much colder than normal, but not dissimilar to the polar vortex event in 2014.
David Mulligan, Cherry Hill Township, New Jersey
We only got three to four inches of snow here, so that’s not a big deal. However, we don’t usually get such frigid temperatures along with high winds. Current conditions show -11C with wind chill of -19C.
We’ve had no issues at our house, but there are many water mains breaks in the area, and some power outages. A few neighbours have had pipes freeze. Schools were closed yesterday, but opened with a two-hour delay today. I’d say the worst weather I’ve seen since coming to the US in 1990 was the blizzard of January 1996, which had me snowed in for five days.
Niall, Toronto, Canada
The weather in Toronto has been frigid since Christmas, with today being the coldest January 5th in history. Some news outlets are reporting temperatures of -40 degrees with the windchill. It certainly made the walk to work very uncomfortable. An extreme cold weather warning has been in effect for a couple of weeks now and there are several discussions at municipal level to try and get some extra buildings open as warming shelters for the homeless. Temperatures are supposed to increase from Sunday but then record snowfalls are predicted for next Tuesday.
Gary Haugh, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
We got about a foot of snow which isn’t unusual for Portsmouth. Clear up has begun and the roads are generally ok, if not a little narrow. If it wasn’t for all the white stuff they would remind me of the rural roads in Co Clare, where I am from.
Storm surges were a problem in some areas but thankfully we didn’t see any of that. There has been no loss of power yet, but a real cold front is expected to come in on Friday and Saturday, with highs of -16 Celsius forecast. It is a bit early in the year for this much snow, but overall, so far it has just been like any other winter in New England. Most winters here are really cold, but this weekend will probably be the worst I’ve experienced since moving here in 2009.