US struggles under Arctic onslaught

Friday 17th Dec 2010 by theWeather Club

In 2008 Seattle completely rewrote its emergency snow plan after a series of snow storms paralyzed the city, causing widespread disruption for its half a million residents. The changes were meant to stop such a thing happening again, yet only two years later the city has been forced into more procedural changes due to the ferocity of the recent cold spell affecting the USA. This winter has again seen widespread chaos throughout the city, including such incidents as a major thoroughfare being closed without the necessary authorities being notified.

From our side of the pond we tend to think – as our train, planes and automobiles grind to a halt – that everyone else is better at dealing with this stuff than we are. However a quick look around the US – which is definitely more experienced and generally better prepared for wintry conditions – shows that we are not the only people suffering under this Arctic onslaught.

In the state of Virginia, thousands were left without power as supply lines failed. In Washington, travellers were stranded in their planes when conditions on the runway meant they could not disembark. In Atlanta, icy conditions led to major road closures after hundreds of collisions. Schools in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina and South Carolina were either closed, or opened late. In Florida, farmers resorted to using helicopters to protect sensitive crops. The helicopters hovered low over green bean and sweet corn fields, moving back and forth in the early morning attempting to push warmer air closer to the plants and saving them from serious frost damage. It still remains to be seen how much imapct this last ditch effort has had.

Along with the dramatic images of ice-clad lighthouses and giant snow drifts emerging from the battered continent, it all goes to show that no matter how ready we think we are Mother Nature still has the capacity to kick us in the behind.