Winter storm, the weather can’t be tamed - GulfToday

Winter storm, the weather can’t be tamed

Snow from this weekend's blizzard covers downtown Buffalo. The blizzard stranded motorists, knocked out power and prevented emergency crews from reaching residents in frigid homes and stuck cars. AP

The blizzard stranded motorists, knocked out power and prevented emergency crews from reaching residents in frigid homes and stuck cars. AP

The winter storm that has hit the United States from the north near the Great Lakes that border Canada to Rio Grande on the Mexican border in the south has left thousands of homes and businesses without power. It has been the bleakest Christmas ever for a multitude of Americans. About 1.8 million houses were without power on Friday, and that figure came down to 300,000 on Saturday, and more than two dozen were killed due to the killer storm. As thousands of flights were cancelled, passengers were stranded who were travelling for Christmas.

There will be a temptation to cite this extreme weather event as one more example of climate change but that would be a hasty conclusion. Winter storms are the norm and not the exception, and they could possibly be due to overall climate change pattern. But the connection can be made only on the basis of a close empirical study the data.

What seems to be quite evident from the worst storm in decades is that the United States with all its well-placed systems is still at a disadvantage to face a worst-case winter storm. It is not much benefit to anyone to make fun of the hapless American affluence in the face of Nature’s fury. The freak weather seems to be an incalculable and unpredictable event.  It is extraordinary to know that ambulances in Buffalo, near New York, are unable to reach out to the people who needed them on a priority basis, because the ambulances were all stuck on the snow-clad roads, and an official described that the roads have become like an ice-rink.

Administrations at the state and local levels are quite hamstrung to respond well to the emergency situation because they do not account for the exigency of the failure of the power grid system, that leaves them unprepared and frustrated when bad weather strikes long and deep. And despite the fact that America is an affluent economy, it is not the case that all Americans are well-off, and that that they have access to heating facilities and lights at comfortable levels compared to people living in poor countries with poor infrastructure.

But it does not protect average Americans living in average homes with average facilities to brave bad weather over a long period. Ordinary people are vulnerable in rich countries as well as the poor ones.

Blizzards are a common phenomenon in America as well as in Europe, including Russia. All that the West has achieved is a fairly sophisticated weather morning system that predicts storms, their intensity and their duration.

And it does give enough time to prepare for the breakdown caused by a blizzard. People can only be prepared to face the breakdown because there is no way of averting the storms, cyclones and other weather events of the extreme kind. Can houses and power systems be built that can remain insulated from the regular weather fluctuations? Urban planners and designers must surely be looking at the options for ensuring that natural weather conditions – and storms and the fall in temperatures are part of the regulation oscillations – do not cause disruptions and disasters. But there seem to be limits to what extent human ingenuity can forestall the after-effects of bad weather.  It will not be possible to ensure constant, bearable temperatures in winters and summers.

The weather cannot be tamed. Human beings and habitations will have to adapt themselves to changing weather patterns. And weather conditions will fluctuate. They will not be stable in the sense of being constant. Local turbulence defines weather, and no grand patterns can be discerned.

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