If another Beast from the East level storm rolls around, is Glasgow doomed to repeat its city shut-down mess?
March 2018. I had spent the whole night up, hidden away in my room to finish an essay for a deadline the next morning. The next morning came and unnoticed by me, a white blanket had spread over Glasgow. After my essay-writing marathon, I opened social media for the first time and was swarmed by snaps, Instagram-story updates and news articles. “Red Weather Alert,” it said: “Danger of Death”. I rubbed my eyes and looked out of the window again. Maybe my sleep-deprived senses had led me to miss out on the danger that was taking place outside, but no. Hardly more than five centimetres of snow covered the garden. Coming from the Black Forest, I would have probably still cycled to school under conditions like that.
The day went on, it kept on snowing. All public transport was cancelled. I had submitted my essay, even though it probably wouldn’t have been that bad if it had been late — after all, all University services were closed as well. After weeks of being busy with academic work, I had been looking forward to getting out of the house again to celebrate my regained freedom, but instead, I spent the day inside. There was no way of spending time with friends because they, too, were snowed in under the by-now about twenty-centimetres of snow.
I accepted things as they were, thinking that surely, the next day things would be better, streets would be cleared and trains and buses would be running again. I was wrong. I went to the shops to get some food and on my way I passed a father pulling his child on a sled behind him. The runner was scratching on the concrete through the snow blanket that was not nearly thick enough to support a sled on it, people were skiing down the streets with no respect for the proper handling of their winter sport gear. There were hardly any cars on the streets – the snow had been melted away enough by the traffic to ruin a pair of skis but not enough to make driving a car a safe undertaking. When I arrived at the shop, I was greeted by empty shelves and I could imagine the masses that must have hurried to buy supplies for the coming snowpocalypse.
Throughout all of the Scottish winter, I had prayed for just a single snowflake to redeem the depressing seven hours of daylight, but now that the Beast from the East had arrived, I realised the error of my ways. Glasgow, the city I had come to from the depths of the Black Forest, the city that for me had meant escape from provincial life, was paralyzed.
It is not like I shouldn’t have expected it. Scotland, as well as its population, seems to be ill-equipped for any kind of weather that lies outside of the accepted comfort zone between five and fifteen degrees Celsius. I understand that houses in warm countries are built to cool down in summer, but Scotland is not a warm country and I have yet to hear an explanation that makes sense of Scottish houses’ inability to have proper insulation — insulation that keeps drafts and dampness outside and the warmth of the heater inside.
On the third day of the Snowpocalypse, things slowly started running again. There were scattered trains and bus services available, stores had started opening again and the snow began melting away in the familiar Glaswegian rain. In the end, it disappeared probably long before anyone of those panicked food-hoarders could have used up the supplies they had scavenged from the emptied shelves of the grocery store, and the Beast from the East soon seemed like the dream of a distant past entered through a wardrobe.
I live in a different flat than last year now, one with double glazed windows and the closest shop is so big that it would be difficult even for huge masses to raid empty within a day. Still, the question remains unanswered, more pressing now that winter is here: will the country that is internationally famous for its atrocious weather learn from experience? Or, should there be a snowstorm this winter, will twenty centimetres of snow bring a halt to the entire nation yet again?