When the Dec. 26 storm hit New York City and I was home on winter break, my family and friends couldn't resist asking me, "You go to school in Buffalo. You're used to this, right?"
To their disbelief, my answer was an unequivocal "no."
Of course, I am used to the snow. I've become so accustomed that looking out my window in the morning and seeing our campus completely transformed into the North Pole is no longer a novelty, but an ordinary sight. I've almost become numb to the lake effect snow and wind nipping at my face and freezing my tears as I walk up the treacherous incline to Clemens Hall.
But I am not used to the inadequate, delayed snow response that crippled the Big Apple in the wake of the post-Christmas blizzard. The city failed to declare a snow emergency that could have prevented widespread chaos – some streets in the boroughs left unplowed for a week; public transportation slowed and even halted in some areas; and, most drastically, ambulances blocked from reaching people in need of medical care. The storm was to blame for 11 deaths and many more injuries, according to The Washington Post.
I was also angered by the reports of city sanitation workers deliberately slowing down the plowing process to protest budget cuts. Did they not consider the citywide, dangerous consequences of their actions? Especially in such a bustling city like New York, the quicker the response, the better.
One Brooklyn resident brought up a troubling thought on an evening newscast, saying that because the city is at a standstill with only two feet of snow, it would be rendered defenseless in the case of another terrorist attack. All anyone has to do is dump snow on the city and it won't be able to dig itself out. I shook my head, embarrassed to admit it, but he was right.
New York isn't the only city crippled by recent snowfall. Atlanta, Ga., with an average yearly snowfall of 2.5 inches, found itself short on snowplows when a surprising five inches fell on Jan. 9. Facing criticism about its response to the storm, the city was forced to expand its snow response equipment from 10 pieces to 58, CNN reported.
I have only lived in Buffalo for three and a half years as a UB student, but I have noticed that Buffalo's snow response is efficient and always prepared for the worst. Even on campus, snowplows repeatedly circle around as the snow is falling, and they don't wait for mounds of snow to pile up, leaving students immobile. With such a quick snow cleanup, it's no surprise that UB rarely gives "snow days."
Even the Buffalo airport is exceptionally equipped to deal with snow. Thomas Dames, superintendent of airway operations, told The Buffalo News that the airport uses specialized snow-clearing tactics that other national airports do not. As a domino effect, the airport often cancels flights into other mid-Atlantic cities that cannot clear up their runways, but rarely cancels them on its own accord.
Also, because snow is part of the Buffalo lifestyle, natives don't seem to fear it as much. In New York City, people – myself included – whine about the wintry weather. "I can't get out of my house," "I can't go to school/work," and "I can't shovel all this" are common complaints that circle around my neighborhood when the "white stuff" piles up.
But Buffalo residents simply make do. Life-long Buffalonians have told me that they sometimes have to climb out of their second-floor windows to dig out their front doors. They build snow tunnels to get from their house to a neighbor's. This might sound surreal and almost unnecessary in New York City ¬ and especially Atlanta – but it's time that more of the country learns ways to cope with the inconveniences of winter weather.
In my freshman year, I came to UB worried that I would be snowed in, unable to leave my dorm and go to classes during the winter months. Although I've seen my share of sub-zero temperatures and snowdrifts, I've never had that problem. When it comes to snow cleanup, I don't have to worry – Buffalo's got it covered.