US & Canada

In the eye of the US snowstorm

A person walks dogs during the blizzard in Rhode Island. Image copyright Froma Harrop
Image caption A dog-walker braves the Rhode Island blizzard

Froma Harrop is a writer whose hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, was predicted to bear the brunt of this week's massive winter storm. She offers her first-person view of the blizzard as it passed through.

When Monday evening started off with ordinary snow, the weather experts kept repeating that this was not to be the model for the night. They said that southern New England must batten down for an unusual weather event - a great white whale of a storm.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo told all drivers to get off the roads by 11 pm. After midnight they'd be subject to arrest. States of emergency were called throughout coastal New England. Amtrak north of New York gave up the fight early in the evening and stopped its train service.

Image copyright Froma Harrop
Image caption Froma Harrop takes a blizzard selfie

Has Winter Storm Juno been big and bad enough to justify that build-up? In New York City, definitely not. Out here in south-eastern New England ... well, you decide.

By 9:30pm, we had snow big-time. By 11pm, blasts of white fury hammered at my windows. Outside the winds whipped the rapidly accumulating inches into tall drifts forcing the few walkers - people with dogs - to negotiate a scape of peaks and valleys. Vehicular traffic had vanished.

In central Providence the electricity held - hence we had cable TV to keep us somewhat distracted. Through the night, however, winds would periodically bang at the windows to remind those snuggling indoors that Juno was still on a rampage.

By 7am on Tuesday, there was daylight of sorts. Thousands of Rhode Islanders were without electricity, as was the entire island of Nantucket

And the snow kept coming - sideways. The local newsman says parts of Rhode Island already have over 20ins (50cm). Worcester, Massachusetts, just north of Providence, is apparently in the absolute bullseye. By 9am it had 25ins, with no let-up. The weather people are predicting 3ft, and trucks are reportedly returning to the municipal garages with broken ploughs.

Across my street a man with a shovel scraped heroically through the gloom. He was trying to clear a path to a doctor's door but soon gave up. Half an hour later, frankly, you can't tell he'd been there. I step out my front door into a knee-high drift.

Image copyright Froma Harrop
Image caption Snow drifts pile up against Froma Harrop's glass doors

By late Tuesday morning it's still snow, snow all the time here in Providence. The wind continues to let out periodic howls. Despite visitations by the occasional plough, no pavement can be seen on the roads.

Meanwhile, the coastal communities are getting nervous about the afternoon high tide, expected around 1pm. Some low-lying areas have already seen storm surges. It's approaching noon, and still nobody's out. Nobody.

My aunt in Florida just called to remind me that I haven't visited for a while. That kind of thing is going on a lot. My friend outside Worcester has been on her computer all morning, arranging for a week in Cabo San Lucas - for both of us.

Whether Juno will break the all-time record, set in 1978, currently remains in grave doubt. This blizzard may not turn out to be the great white whale, the Moby Dick of snow, but it is a whale nonetheless.

You know it won't be unofficially over until people start obsessing again about the Super Bowl bound New England Patriots and the "deflate-gate" controversy. So far, barely a mention.

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