University of Wisconsin–Madison

Snow Falls on Éire

In Wisconsin, we are well acquainted with the snow. However, in Ireland, snow isn’t a big part of life in the winter. The area around the west of Ireland sees less then ten days of flurries a year, based on the mean average from 1961-2000. These days usually don’t see much if any accumulation of snow. The area around Shannon Airport has on average five years between occurrences when it snows more than two centimetres. So, in summary, Ireland is unprepared for major snow events.

This brings us to the past few days. Storm Emma, or affectionately referred to as “The Beast from the East”, swept across the UK and Ireland. It has been the worst storm to hit Ireland since 1982. This has disrupted the country more than Hurricane Ophelia did this past fall. The country came to a standstill. All buses and trains were not operating, and flights were cancelled in the country starting Thursday and only began operating normally on Sunday. Thankfully, I had no plans to travel this weekend, but there were many people stuck at the airport over the weekend.

However, the storm did make for a long lazy weekend in the house. NUI-Galway cancelled classes on Thursday and Friday and remained closed through the weekend. Most pubs, restaurants, and grocery stores were closed until Saturday morning in Galway. When the grocery stores reopened they sported bare shelves. On the day or two leading up to the storm, everyone in Ireland seemed to be preparing for the apocalypse. Stores were running out of bread before they could get them on the shelves and milk became a rare commodity. I made due with what I had around the house and am refusing to go grocery shopping in an empty grocery store.

It is interesting how differently people react to weather, based on what we are accustomed to. In Wisconsin, there is still school even when there is a foot of snow on the ground. But, we have the tires and the equipment to deal with it. Ireland does not. I have now gone through two Status Red weather warnings in Ireland. The first, Hurricane Ophelia, and now Storm Emma. Even though people were more concerned about me with Hurricane Ophelia, Storm Emma has had more of an impact across the country. It has made an entire country come to a standstill. Snowmen were erected everywhere by children and restless college students. The snow is beginning to melt and by Monday, Spring will return to Galway again. It was nice to have a long weekend, but I will be glad to get out of the house.