Snow event?

February 5, 2009

When in Rome . . .

As I watched the snow fall gently from London skies on Sunday night, I asked an acquaintance if I would have to go to work the next day.

My Canadian “snow radar” — fine-tuned from living in the snowy cities of Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax — was telling me that there wasn’t going to be much accumulation, but given the regular daily London transit delays in fair weather during the rush hour, I had a gleeful feeling a “snow day” might be in store.

“If the snow is 3-feet deep you might get away with it,” said my acquaintance, who commutes in and out of London from the Southwest each day.

I awoke the next day to discover that he was wrong.

Almost the entire Tube system was shut, buses cancelled and within a few hours Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, had closed, although there was nowhere near 3 feet of snow.

The heaviest snow fell in southern England. Epsom, Surrey, had depths of 31 centimetres (12 inches), south London had 28 cm and the North Downs in Kent got 25 cm.

Where I live in southwest London, it looked like the snow was about 15 cm deep.

(Can you tell I am trying not to smirk as I write?)

That amount of snow would be noticed in a Canadian city – but barely. It would take much more than that to put the brakes on the engines of capitalism.

Some years ago in Toronto, so much snow accumulated so quickly that former Mayor Mel Lastman called in the army to help dig out in a frantic effort to keep the city operating. This action left Toronto open to the ridicule of the rest of the country, which in general sees much more annual snowfall.

I lived in Washington, D.C., for four years and witnessed that city shut down due to a few inches of snow several times. President Obama, who moved there from Chicago in January, mocked the city last week for its panic over a day and night of snow and freezing rain, which led to school closures.

The storm in London this week cost the UK economy up to 3.5 billion pounds ($5 billion) according to Britain’s Federation of Small Businesses.

Even my British relations expressed disgust at the transit closures.

An aunt near Maidstone, Kent, said: “It’s typically British.”

A cousin in Paignton, Devon, said: “I’m sorry, I just don’t believe it.”

Their attitude seemed to be that people were just looking for an excuse to take the day off.

And why not? Given that it was the worst snow here in almost 20 years, I think it does call for a holiday. I certainly enjoyed my two days working from my studio flat.

“What are you doing at home? You are used to worse than this,” a Canadian colleague asked. I’ve never had a day off work due to snow in Canada.

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” I replied.

Looking forward to the possibility of more snow . . .


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London transit system sounds as sissy-ish as Vancouver’s! Nice to milk it though and enjoy the snow rather than battling it.

Posted by Suzanne Ahearne | Report as abusive

In England I gather the policy from citizens is.
The govenment is to blame for every thing when it comes to Winter.
They have not gritted the roads, not salted them.
It,s a safety issue not to go to schools .
What happened to making provisions YOURSELF.
THIS does,not happen in North America, Canada, Scandinavia, Russia, Etc.
Tires mainly are the answer.
And Not the Government for Loss in the Economic Earnings.

Posted by D.Porter | Report as abusive

Nothing like a snow day to add an element of good cheer and banish the midwinter blues. Enjoy the snow and the festive break it brings – it’ll be back to the grind soon enough.

Posted by tracey may | Report as abusive

Thanks for sharing thoughts from the “big snow.” I remember snow days growing up in New York … but schools wouldn’t close until it was at least a foot high. Maybe in LA we can take “earthquake days” :-)

Stay warm!


Posted by Michael C. Cordell | Report as abusive

hey great to hear you had snow…what a whacky season huh ..we have had our fair share here in halifax..keep in touch and how do you like living in london give more details..take care ronalda

Posted by ronalda savard | Report as abusive

I am from the U.S. in theory…New York…This is not much snow to closed everything down.

Posted by DENNIS JUNIOR | Report as abusive