Belfast Telegraph

Storm Jonas New York: Night city that never sleeps had to retire under white blanket

Northern Ireland reporter gets an alternative view of the Big Apple

By Ali Gordon

Snowball fights in Times Square and grown men skiing down Broadway wasn't exactly how I imagined winter in New York.

For years I'd watched movies such as Miracle On 34th Street, Home Alone 2 and When Harry Met Sally where the snow lightly dusts the trees and the city is buzzing with shoppers.

In reality I was waddling around, almost waist-deep in snow, and there was an eerie silence about the place.

My friend and I arrived at JFK Airport on Thursday afternoon aware that there was some snow forecast for the following evening. Little did we know that meant more than 26 inches of it.

It took only the two hours we were inside Madison Square Garden watching a basketball game for the whole city to turn white. We walked out of the stadium into a winter wonderland. But fast-forward 12 hours and we were trundling through the snow, apologising almost every few seconds for bumping into passers-by because it was too cold to lift your head up and expose any of your face. There was a mutual respect and understanding that whatever happened in these crazy conditions could not be avoided.

A few hours later a piercing warning noise echoed across the city. The Mayor had sent an alert to all iPhones in New York that at 2.30pm all roads would close and it was a criminal offence to use transport after this time. The Big Apple was going into lockdown.

True to his word, the city that never sleeps went to sleep. All of the shops, shows, attractions, public transport links and most of the restaurants closed, and yet we had more fun without them. We were building snowmen in the middle of Fifth Avenue and snow angels in Central Park, and none of the materialistic things you pay all that money to see and do seemed to matter anymore.

Tourists and locals alike joined in snowy solidarity, laughing at each other falling over and commenting on the cold.

Waking up on Sunday morning, though, was a totally different story. More than 3,000 workers had cleared the main roads and the snow turned to slush as the sun beat down. Last Saturday was the day New York stood still and I certainly won't forget it in a hurry. It was magical, just not in the way you see in the movies.

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