Blizzard Paralyzes Eastern US

After watching Europe cope with snow and massive travel dislocations, America's East Coast found itself in a similar predicament.

Amiel Ungar , | updated: 7:17 PM

Satellite of  North East US February 2010
Satellite of North East US February 2010


One day an e-mail from my cousin announced that his daughter was expected to jump to Israel for the intersession break together with her friends.  The next day's e-mail reported that her flight was canceled due to the blizzard that effectively shut down the East Coast of the United States.

This is holiday time and planes are full. Due to the economic recession the airline companies are skimping on planes and crews so passengers whose flights were canceled encountered difficulty in finding alternative flights and many were effectively stranded for a week and more. Some deserted airlines and prepared to brave a long train ride only to find the same story at the rail stations. The scenes that visited European airports last week recurred at their American counterparts.In the best cases the unfortunate passengers received cots and blankets; otherwise they slept on their luggage or on the floor.

What made the storm particularly dangerous and difficult to cope with were the accompanying high gusts of winds that approached speeds of 80 mph and made snow clearance an impossibility during the height of the storm. Even relatively well-prepared New York City found it difficult to cope as crews could not get to snow removal equipment and snowplows had to be extricated by other snowplows. 

The New York subway system, considered almost immune to the hazards of weather, was stricken as well. Fewer people will be humming "Take the A Train" because passengers were stranded in frigid conditions through the night on an A train stuck above ground and denuded of power by snow accumulation on the third rail. Trains and buses were similarly affected and many routes were canceled, adding to the transportation nightmare. The storm also knocked out power for thousands of consumers.

The snow was a great leveler as it played havoc with both the travel plans of individuals and illustrious sports teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team had to stay in New Jersey after beating the New Jersey Devils because there was no way to get to the airport and if they did get their there be no planes taking off or landing. Football's New England Patriots, this year's success story in the NFL, could beat their opponents but not the snow and they were marooned in Rochester, New York following their victory over Buffalo.

The estimated losses to the airlines are said to run to $100 million as 7000 flights were canceled. On the other hand, the fact that the storm struck when most people were away from work for the holidays mitigated some of the economic and personal injury that the storm could have wreaked had it visited the region on a normal workday.

The heavy snow and icy winds sporadically re-aroused the global warming debate. Skeptics of global warming used the storm as further ammunition for regarding global warming as pseudoscience, while adherents claimed that since warmer air holds more moisture, the storm actually constitutes proof of the theory's accuracy. Essentially the debate was merely a rehash of last year's snowmaggedon when the East Coast was wracked by a succession of snowstorms. The debate will undoubtedly continue.

Israel, by contrast, is still suffering from its worst drought in decades, but tourists at least are enjoying the unseasonably mild weather found in most of the country.