In Paris we don’t talk about the weather unless something really unusual happens. Unusual by Parisian standards, of course. In the summer if the temperatures rise above 27° C (80° F), which does not happen often, everyone laments their lot, with constant bleats of “il fait chaud” (It’s hot !).
This week we got 10 centimeters (4 inches) of snow, on Wednesday, an event that most New Yorkers would take easily in their stride. In Minneapolis it might not even be noticed, let alone reported.
But in Paris, it was a catastrophe. Virtually the entire public transit system (RATP) shut down. Schools closed. People stayed home. Truck deliveries within the entire region of the Ile de France were forbidden because of the impassability of streets and roads. Rail connections with the provinces were curtailed, and some flights were cancelled.
Stuff can happen if you are not prepared to deal with it, and Paris certainly is not ready to deal with snow. The last time we had anything like it was in 1986. When you consider that Paris is further north than Montreal, you might wonder why that is. There are two reasons: first, we are not that far from the English Channel, and the Gulf Stream passes near-by, giving us some natural moderation.
The second reason is that the City of Light generates so much heat that snowflakes usually melt on contact with the pavement. It actually does snow more often, but it never accumulates. However, add a sustained blast of arctic cold and drop the temperatures to below freezing, and everything changes. The snow then accumulates, and Paris is paralyzed.
You would think that street plows could handle 10 centimeters, wouldn’t you? Not if there aren’t any plows! Why invest in equipment you don’t need more than once every 30 years?
Today, Friday, we are scheduled to have another snowfall, so I will make this a short post to rush out and stock up on provisions, lest deliveries be forbidden for several more days!