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You just roll with it, wait it out, and rely on kindly neighbours

The playwright, actor and director Sam McCready splits his time between his native city Belfast and America. In this special report, the 78-year-old explains how he and wife Joan have been surviving Storm Jonas

By Sam McCready

Published 25/01/2016

Sam McCready
Sam McCready

A few years back we had an enormous snowstorm here in Baltimore. My wife Joan and I were leaving the next day for Belfast. I called my sister-in-law to confirm we were coming and told her we had several feet of snow to clear to get out of our house.

"Snow!" she said. "You don't need to tell us about snow. You should see what we've got here!" I was in despair. I was leaving snow in Baltimore for more snow in Belfast - out of the frying pan into the fire. We arrived in Belfast. There was a light dusting of snow, maybe half-an-inch, and that was it. Everywhere we went, people asked: "What do you think of the snow?" Snow, I thought, Belfast people have no idea what it is like to have real snow!

I thought about that story as we prepared for the snowstorm we have survived in Baltimore this week.

As forecasts predicted a heavy blizzard, people headed for the shops. Within a couple of days shelves in the mammoth stores that most of the time are weighed down with an excess of everything you could ever want were virtually empty - and the first things to sell out were bread, milk and toilet rolls. Toilet rolls! Bread and milk I can understand, but why would there be such an inordinate need for toilet rolls?

There was probably more need for them this weekend because it was a storm that paralysed the city and brought everything to a standstill.

It started on Friday with an ominous silence.

Then, for nearly two days, non-stop, the snow came down, obliterating everything from view. There were massive traffic hold-ups, people were stuck in their cars for hours, running out of petrol and then abandoning the vehicles to find an alternative way of getting home. There was chaos.

But when a majority of folks got home, they stayed there to wait it out. That's what we learn to do here with hurricanes, blizzards and snowstorms - we wait them out.

We live in a cottage that would not be out of place in the Irish countryside, but as the snow piled up around the house we were concerned that with drifting and blizzard conditions, we wouldn't be able to get out through the front door; we would be marooned in our own home.

And we lived with the fear of a power outage, which would cut off the electricity. If that happened we would have no light, no heat, no TV - and we knew from experience that the power might not be restored for a week. That was the scary part; not knowing what was going to happen as the snow swirled around us.

But the wonderful part of living through a storm here is that neighbours look out for neighbours.

They invite each other for hot chocolate, blizzard parties, and pot-luck, bring-a-bottle dinners. They play cards and board games and, as soon as the snow stops, they come out in droves and shovel their neighbours' drives and dig out their car.

During the storm this weekend news from outside was ominous and dire. There was flooding along the coast, roofs collapsed, there were major road accidents, people died from heart attacks from shovelling the heavy snow, but babies were born and delivered through it all, and people came together in neighbourly friendship. And now that the storm has passed, many are left with an excess of toilet rolls.

Belfast Telegraph

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