Snowmageddon 2012

It snowed last night in England. The sort of snow that I actually quite like, because it takes place at temperatures not too far from freezing, and is thus fun to build snow-people with. And the temperatures not too far from freezing means that while it’s happening, a girl can go outside and enjoy the experience of catching snowflakes on the tongue, a la the Peanuts characters in the Christmas cartoon special. No big deal, right?

Wrong. This is England, so snow is treated as the Snowpocalypse. As of yesterday afternoon, before it was actually snowing, 1/3 of today’s flights at Heathrow airport were cancelled. Warnings were issued. Grocery stores took on that air of menace whereas people were cleaning the shelves.

I am familiar with this phenomenon, because I have also experienced snow in Virginia and in Washington DC, where it is as infrequent and as difficult to manage as in England. There is a lack of infrastructure for dealing with such things that causes any flakes that fall to turn into a major incident. And this amuses me, as a girl from Minnesota where we are far more accustomed to such things.

I have these flashbacks to Minnesota days, in which a prediction of snow came with a great deal of organizing. For one, a “Snow Emergency” was likely to be declared, which meant concerns over which side of the city street on which to park for days after the event. None of which was helped by the requirement that my car be not in my apartment’s car park over an eight hour stretch in order for that to be cleared. The logistical challenge of parking one’s car in three different places after a snow-storm was always taxing. But it reminded me that at least in Minnesota we did something about the snow. As far as I can tell, in England it is just something to talk about.

It stopped snowing overnight, and as such by this evening was a thing of the past. Except for the fact that it all, at this point, is sitting largely where it fell. No effort has been made to clear the car park at my flat, nor has anyone even bothered to shovel the walkways leading into my flat. I can see now that walking to work tomorrow will be a slippery and dangerous challenge.

And here we have the great irony of snow in England. Much talked about, but little acted on. The BBC website this morning was full of stories of people trapped in cars on the major freeways at a dead standstill for hours, and even overnight. But we all knew it was coming, the forecasts were quite clear. Why was anyone out in a car on a motorway, knowing full well that it was coming? And having happened, exactly as predicted, why has no one made any effort to remove the snow? Shovels are not exactly expensive. Ice in the coming days will only be a hazard because no one bothered to move the snow that did fall.

And really, it was not that much. A few inches here, and in temperatures, as noted above, not too far from freezing. As far as I can tell, England collectively loves the drama of the “chaos” caused by a few inches of semi-frozen precipitation. Twitter was, this morning, full of photos of back yards with a light dusting and snow-people having been constructed in public places. But in the grand scheme of things, it was only a hugely dramatic event because people wanted it to be that way. In England, people love to talk about the weather. And the joke is that normally the weather is quite unremarkable. Apparently when it is ever-so-slightly remarkable, the taste for hyperbole overwhelms even the most sensible of persons.

My evidence: the result of “heavy snow” in my neighborhood. It apparently paralyzed all but the mouths and typing fingers of the locals.

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5 responses to “Snowmageddon 2012

  1. I understand the lack of preparedness for snow in the UK, but I laughed myself silly when I saw a particular clip on the BBC website today interviewing some young people who had slept in their van at a petrol station rather than continue driving in the snow. OK, fair enough. But then they told the interviewer that they were surprised that they had to “dig their way out” in the morning. The snow was clearly less than 4 inches deep and they were shoveling a path to the road!!

  2. It was nice to see the snow, and the local children making snowmen, and snow woman–I have a photo–and having snowball fights and making daddy pull them around on their sled-guh. Snow can be wonderful when you only have to put up with it for one or two days a year. As for me; it was only about two inches–I don’t call that ‘snow’ ;)

  3. Yes, we Brits are rubbish at dealing with snow, but you’re right… it provides good weather-related drama.

    Mind you, I work with someone from Pennsylvania, and she gets really frustrated about how bad we Great Plains dwellers are at dealing with snow. She thinks it’s pathetic the number of snow days the schools have, and is often telling me how in PA, you’d have a huge snowfall overnight, but the ploughs and gritters would be out, and life would go on as normal. So I guess it depends on your perspective. I’m always impressed at how people just get on with daily life in spite of the snow, but her take on it is different.

    Have you heard the “wrong kind of snow” story? Ask a colleague. It’s a legendary “rubbish at dealing with snow” story.

  4. PS Am interested to know what you think of my latest post, if you have a moment, particularly as it pertains to student life.

  5. We only had a couple of inches – compared to last year, it hardly registered and by this morning it had pretty much vanished. Thing to remember is that people like to read about the apocalypse, especially if it isn’t actually happening.

    What we got was perfect for rolling huge snowmen, though!

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