A World of Contrast

The Blizzard that crippled life in parts of America recently shows clearly the difference between that part of the world and others

TJ Prince Bruno

Teejay (right) and Bruno

The picture of Teejay and Bruno in windbreakers surrounded by mounds of snow, two Nigerians from Aniocha Local Government Area of Delta State that, just a few months ago, relocated to the United States of America, was, to some persons unfamiliar with winter in the North American country, a picture from another planet. It is not. The photographs from the duo’s facebook pages represent the reality of life in New York City where the boys live. This experience is completely different from the situation in their former Nigerian abode of Minna where the weather is dry and harsh at this time of the year, as indeed other parts of northern and southern parts of Nigeria. Were they at home, they would have had to contend with sweat during the day time and require some covering at night to minimize the effect of harmattan breeze, blowing across the country. But they would have no need for a heater as obtains in their new location.

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For much of January, it wasn’t just New York City that was literally enveloped by snow; some other American cities were affected too, leading to loss of at least nine lives. They include Boston, Connecticut, Washington DC and Philadelphia. The storm devastated homelands, bringing commercial and social activities to a halt. Schools were shut, thousands of flights were cancelled, electricity supply cut, train forced to stay off tracks, and cars barred from the roads. Indeed, many cars were literally buried under snow. It was a bedlam that saw even states yet to be engulfed issuing a warning to residents to be mindful of approaching danger. The National Weather Service (NWS) in one of its alerts, warned of more “crippling” consequences.

The snow storm, or “snowmageddon” as one media outlet dubbed it, affected more than 60 million people across America and left government agencies worrying about just what to do to end the onslaught. But this was nature at work. Mercifully, as at press time last week, the storm was subsiding, to the relief of many people who had been at the receiving end of the windfall but the costs were enormous as people and businesses suffered losses all through the lockdown. However, as is typical of man to poke fun even in the worst of times, some persons affected by the Blizzard, described by some as one of the worst in American history, choose to make light of the situation. Another picture on facebook shows one young woman, in pants, diving into a snow mound. The thing, though, is that, unlike in a swimming pool where swimmers, as a way to showcase their skills, immerse and flip-flop, the woman quickly leapt out, lest she froze.

The shocking weather conditions witnessed in the United States is at variance with that of Nigeria or other parts of Africa or Asia at the moment. This is even as the two continents are not immune from natural disasters as seen in flooding and earthquakes in parts of Asia like Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India over the years that wrecked homes.   Many Nigerians have, in recent times, been complaining of heat caused by a rise in temperatures. While the heat is a source of discomfort for many, it is known to contribute to the outbreak of Meningitis and Lassa fever, the last of which health officials across the country are currently battling to contain.

But weather conditions are not static as heat occasionally gives way to cold. Such is the weather in some parts of Nigeria today that dust haze, at times, makes way for a light shower, as witnessed in Lagos last month. Chinbu Oba, a civil servant, attributes such difference in weather condition from one country or continent to the other to climate change. He recalls that a lot has changed over the years, as climatic conditions he was familiar with are different from what he experiences now. “The rains are not as frequent as they used to be and even a place like Jos that used to be very cold is different now. The cold in Jos, in my view, is not as severe as it used to be,” he told the magazine.

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Walking in between snow covered cars

Perhaps, this has to do with climate change, which has been in the news in recent years. In Africa, Europe, America, Asia and elsewhere, climate change has been blamed for much of the weather changes witnessed across the world, even as man is accused by some experts as contributing to it. Late last year, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, analysed 28 weather conditions and noted that man contributed to 14 of them. The 180-page report shows that while climate change is responsible for some of the extreme weather conditions, the man also played a part. It notes, for instance, that human activities in land use contributed to the flooding witnessed in the Southeastern Canadian Prairies and that similar influence increased the probability of wildfires in California as well as heat waves witnessed in Argentina in December 2013.

Whether natural or man-made, it takes no soothsayer to imagine that extreme weather conditions as the Blizzard witnessed in America last week may happen again, sooner or later.

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