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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

Published 26/01/2016

Belfast Telegraph’s Ali Gordon in snowbound Manhattan
Belfast Telegraph’s Ali Gordon in snowbound Manhattan
A young girl slides down the West Lawn of the US Capitol building yesterday
Girls throw snowballs with Brooklyn in the background
A truck clears snow from a street in Washington DC
Ali Gordon in New York

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.

USA: A bulldozer clears snow on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol January 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. Heavy snow continued to fall in the Mid-Atlantic region causing
USA: A bulldozer clears snow on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol January 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. Heavy snow continued to fall in the Mid-Atlantic region causing "life-threatening blizzard conditions" and affecting millions of people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24: A snowplow clears snow in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 24, 2016 in Washington, DC. The blizzard that has brought massive snowfall and a standstill to the East Coast and the Mid Atlantic region has stopped. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People walk on Pennsylvania Avenue in near whiteout conditions in Washington on January 23, 2016. A deadly blizzard walloped the eastern United States on Saturday, paralyzing Washington and New York under a heavy blanket of snow as officials warned millions of people to remain indoors until the storm eases up. / AFP / MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
People participate in a giant snowball fights in Dupont Circle in Washington on January 24, 2016. Snowball fights have become a tradition after every major snow storm in the Nation's Capital. A massive blizzard that claimed at least 16 lives in the eastern United States finally appeared to be winding down Sunday, giving snowbound residents the chance to begin digging out. AFP / Olivier DoulieryOLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images
People participate in a giant snowball fights in Dupont Circle in Washington on January 24, 2016. Snowball fights have become a tradition after every major snow storm in the Nation's Capital. A massive blizzard that claimed at least 16 lives in the eastern United States finally appeared to be winding down Sunday, giving snowbound residents the chance to begin digging out. /AFP / Olivier DoulieryOLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images
A worker clears snow off the driveway of a car wash on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC on January 24, 2016. A massive blizzard that claimed at least 16 lives in the eastern United States finally appeared to be winding down on January 24, giving snowbound residents the chance to begin digging out. / AFP / MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 23: A woman walks in strong winds and heavy snow fall in Central Park on January 23, 2016 in New York City. A major Nor'easter is hitting much of the East Coast and parts of the South as forecasts warn of up to two feet of snow in some areas. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
Snow-covered cars are seen on a residential street in the northwest of Washington, DC on January 24, 2016. A massive blizzard that claimed at least 16 lives in the eastern United States finally appeared to be winding down Sunday, giving snowbound residents the chance to begin digging out. / AFP / MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
The clear up continues in New York City following yesterday's record-setting snowfall which left at least 18 people dead and brought much of the US East Coast to an icy standstill. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Ronnie Esplin/PA Wire
The Spring Street salt shed is filled with salt before an upcoming snowstorm on January 21, 2016 in New York, NY. Winter Storm Jonas was expected to hit New York City between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning and the National Weather Service recently included New York City on a blizzard watch. (Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)
Visitors to New York's Central Park pass the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in the wake of a storm that dumped heavy snow along the East Coast. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
The New York Skyline is seen from Exchange Place on January 24, 2016 in Jersey City. A massive blizzard that claimed at least 16 lives in the eastern United States finally appeared to be winding down Sunday, giving snowbound residents the chance to begin digging out. / AFP / KENA BETANCURKENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

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